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Md. panel on disabilities to brief O’Malley

Gov. Martin O’Malley will meet next week with a commission he created in response to the death in custody of a man with Down syndrome to hear about the panel’s progress in devising training for law enforcement officers and others in dealing with the intellectually and developmentally disabled, the panel’s chairman said Thursday.

Timothy Shriver outlined for panel members the discussion he hopes to have with the outgoing Democratic governor Wednesday. It would include the panel’s oversight of a police academy regimen featuring disabled people as trainers that will become mandatory for new officers statewide in 2015.

Shriver, who also chairs the national Special Olympics, said he also plans to share with O’Malley some recommendations the panel is considering, including a possible request for a state-funded center to prepare more so-called self-advocates as trainers for public-transit workers, medical professionals and educators, as well as police officers.

Shriver said such an approach could make Maryland a national leader in changing fearful attitudes about the disabled that advocates say led to the death of Robert Ethan Saylor. The 26-year-old New Market man suffocated in January 2013 as three Frederick County sheriff’s deputies, moonlighting as mall security officers, tried to forcibly remove him from a theater because he hadn’t bought a ticket for a second viewing of the film, “Zero Dark Thirty.” The death was ruled a homicide but a grand jury refused to indict the officers.

“The one thread that this commission has continually returned to is the issue of self-advocacy and the issue of self-representation,” Shriver said. “It could have quite sweeping and powerful messaging implications for the state if we had such a cadre of people being prepared for that role.”

The state General Assembly passed a law last spring mandating police training about the intellectually and developmentally disabled. The commission says California, Delaware, New Jersey, Indiana, Louisiana and New Mexico have laws requiring some or all first responders to be trained in interactions with people with such disabilities, but Maryland would be the first to use them as teachers in mandatory police training statewide.

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