The death of a man with Down syndrome in the custody of sheriff's deputies has helped inspire a new Maryland commission to improve interactions with people with developmental disabilities.
Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver said Monday that Robert Ethan Saylor's legacy will live on through the commission's work.
Gov. Martin O'Malley created the new Maryland Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities after Saylor's death. It includes state public safety officials, prosecutors, police agencies and advocates for people with disabilities. The first meeting was Monday.
Commission members have begun suggesting ways to improve training for first responders and for the public.
"People with intellectual and developmental differences are often misunderstood, or poorly understood, by officials and citizens alike,'' Shriver said. "Law enforcement, because of their critical role...are in a particular position of needing increased understanding and context, but they are not alone.''
Shriver said more work also needs to be done to combat stigmas regarding people with differing abilities.
Col. Marcus Brown, the superintendent of state police, said a broader focus on understanding behavioral cues could help police officers respond to different situations.
The commission planned two more meetings before it must complete its first report by Jan. 9, which would have been Saylor's 27th birthday.