Buckeye PD working to improve relations with autism community after body cam video release

The Buckeye Police Department is working to train officers on interactions with people who have disabilities.

The city of Buckeye is trying. That's what the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix's vice president believes.

On Wednesday, high-ranking members of the Buckeye Police Department met with representatives from the ASGP. The meeting came just days after body camera video of a confrontation between an officer and a boy with autism was released.

The video shows the boy and the officer fall to the ground after the officer tries to handcuff the 14-year-old.

The officer believed the teen was taking drugs when in actuality he was "stimming," which is common for people with autism. It's the repetition of physical movements.

RELATED: Body cam video shows Buckeye officer take down teen with autism

Connor Leibel told the officer what he was doing before trying to walk away but the officer didn't know what stimming was and didn't realize the teen has autism.

Once the officer tried to detain Leibel, the boy panicked and started to scream.

The teen's caretaker was across the street when she noticed what was going on and informed the officer the boy has autism.

The family released pictures that show several large scars and scrapes on the teen's back.

The family is asking for a formal apology and wants to see the officer do community service within the autism community. They are also asking for more officer training.

Cynthia Macluskie is the vice president of the ASGP and the mother of an autistic child.

"When I first saw the (body camera) video I was scared, and thought it could have been much worse," Macluskie said. "He could have been killed."

The officer was cleared by the police department of any wrongdoing but a spokesperson admitted any training is welcome.

The groundwork for that was laid out Wednesday during a meeting between high-ranking members of the department and people from the ASGP.

"It's not just a police problem; it's a community problem," said Macluskie.

She would also like to see training for people with autism.

"They need emergency response training," said Macluskie.

The concept is simple according to Macluskie: The more people with autism interact with police, the better equipped they are to handle a situation.

Macluskie already is working on a presentation for officers in the department and hopes to have members of the community turn out.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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