Bronx, NY — A mother is regretting her decision to call the police to help her find her son last year after their visit landed the 24-year-old nonverbal autistic man in the hospital.
Ana Baltazar, mother of Miguel Torruella, called 9-1-1 last year after her son went missing. Within an hour, the police had found Torruella. However, lacking the training and subsequent competence to deal with a nonverbal autistic person, the NYPD used the only resource they have to handle the situation – violence.
When police found Torruella, he was scared and lost, walking down the street. Torruella’s inability to communicate with the officers apparently enraged them, so one officer resorted to his taser.
“The police encountered Miguel on the street. He was lost. He can’t communicate. They interpreted this as him being uncooperative, and they tasered him in order to bring him into custody,” explained Dave Thompson, the family’s attorney.
Instead of getting a call that police found her son and he is okay, Baltazarto gets a call from the cops telling her that her son is in the hospital, and they had put him there.
“He hasn’t been able to fall asleep in his own bed ever since the incident and he is nervous,” Ana Baltazarto told PIX11 News, in Spanish.
The family is now taking legal action as none of the officers involved will ever be fired, or even disciplined. They have filed a federal lawsuit against the NYPD, alleging that police violated the civil rights of Miguel.
According to PIX11, the NYPD would not comment on the case due to pending litigation.
Police officers hurting or even killing mentally ill people is an unfortunate norm in today’s society. The lack of training and incompetence in dealing with mentally challenged individuals is a deadly fault among departments from coast to coast.
A study released last year by the American Psychiatric Association found that Crisis Intervention Training (CIT)-trained officers “had sizable and persisting improvements in knowledge, diverse attitudes about mental illnesses and their treatments, self-efficacy for interacting with someone with psychosis or suicidality, social distance stigma, de-escalation skills and referral decisions.”
However, as we’ve shown in multiple instances, police seldom receive this training.