September 4, 2020, was Golda Barton’s first day back to work in almost a year. Her son, Linden Cameron, was having an autistic meltdown. He was lying on the floor, curled up in a ball, crying and having fits, because he could not reach his mother by phone and was having a hard time dealing with the situation. He was suffering from separation anxiety and depression. Golda called 911 and requested a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) to transport her son to the hospital.
Law enforcement, who took an oath to protect and serve, arrived on the scene. Linden’s mother warned the officers that her son was scared of police in uniform, because they shot and killed his grandfather earlier that year.She explained to the officers that her son was having a mental health episode at home and could not regulate his emotions.
Unfortunately, law enforcement became the family’s worst nightmare.Instead of de-escalating the situation, they did just the opposite.The boy, who was intimidated by the police, ran out of the house, down the back alley and onto a pedestrian sidewalk, as the officers yelled and chased after him. The police escalated the situation and ignored any training they received at the academy. Linden did not comply when ordered several times to stop running and show his hands.
When l viewed the video, the distance between the police officer and the autistic boy was about 25 to 30 ft. At this point, Linden had stopped running and was walking away from the police officer.
l suspect the policeman, who was running out of breath, grew frustrated and assumed his life was being threatened by the unarmed child.He pulled his revolver, took aim and fired his weapon, emptying his clip into the 13 year old, who weighed less than a 100 lbs. A witness said the other officer grabbed his head in disbelief saying, “He’s just a child, what are you doing?”
The officer shot 11 times, hitting Linden Cameron in the chest, stomach, and multiple times in the shoulder and ankles. When a police officer unloads his weapon at an individual, he is demonstrating a shoot-to-kill mentality.The barrage of bullets dropped the dangerous autistic child in his tracks, restoring safety back to the Salt Lake City neighborhood.
Take note, the officer handcuffed the boy after he was riddled with bullets.Nice touch…..“Law enforcement just doing its job, ma’am.”Golda Barton called and asked for assistance to have her son taken to the hospital. That is exactly where he wound up, unfortunately, not the way mom had intended, compliments of the Salt Lake City police department.
Linden Cameron was violated, abused and gunned down like one of the top ten most wanted. What occurred on that night in September was nothing short of a miracle.Linden Cameron did not die…..he survived through this tragic ordeal.The wounds his body received may have caused damage beyond repair.He will require operations and professional therapy for the physical and psychological trauma he suffered at the hands of law enforcement.While facing a long road to recovery, Linden Cameron has exhibited courage and strength. He is a fighter and survivor.
He is what l call an Autistic Martyr.
Law enforcement needs to re-evaluate their present system.Their inability of how they handle autism is not acceptable.Law enforcement is not just failing in Salt Lake City, they are failing throughout the United States.This tragedy for Linden Cameron and his family will hopefully set in motion a series of conversations that need to be addressed and discussed in order to bring law enforcement up-to-date in handling mental health issues in this country. Once these decisions are made, there can be a change in policy, which must be implemented at the police academy in teaching future cadets, in addition to re-training veterans of the police force.
I see one of two possibilities we could explore.One: Is it possible to create a new type of position or possibly create a task force that will allow police officers to receive special education in dealing with mental health issues and work alongside their fellow police officers to council them, when certain situations arise on the job?
Or two: Could it work the other way around?Perhaps, we could hire professional psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors that could receive police training from the academy, so they are professionally educated in both mental health and law enforcement procedures.A new type of position designed for addressing how law enforcement will deal with the mental health crisis that is rising in this country.The number of professionals assigned to a precinct would depend on the size and workload of each district. Be creative and find the budget, because it always comes down to money. Just a thought. We start with a concept and we begin to question…and ask the right questions.
JUST A THOUGHT. Law enforcement should request and encourage any officer, who has experience with autism (whether it’s family or elsewhere) to come forward and participate in a new autistic program that’s geared towards educating law enforcement.Police officers, who have pre-established relationships with autistic people would be a great source to tap into, because of their prior experience.Many organizations and businesses that are designed to help people on the spectrum, have been created by people, who have experienced autism first hand, which is usually inspired by a family member.Autism is their motivation.
With each passing year, autism is coming more and more into the public consciousness of society and autistic people everywhere are beginning to find their voice by expressing their own thoughts and opinions about who they are and how they should be perceived by society.I believe autism generates its own energy and always seems to find a way to communicate with and participate in…the neurotypical world.
AND ONE MORE THING. If this tragedy would have happened to me, the article would have read:An elderly autistic man in his sixties posed a threat to law enforcement by refusing to obey police orders, was shot and apprehended by law enforcement.End of story.Ah, but this story was not about an elderly man. This was a 13 year-old autistic boy, who was simply having a neurological breakdown. There is only one answer to how law enforcement should handle autism. It’s the same answer for society.Education…it’s always the game changer…and throw in a huge dose of empathy.
MOM DID THE RIGHT THING. Linden’s mom, Golda Barton, did the right thing in calling the police and asking for the CIT (crisis intervention team) to respond.Unfortunately, law enforcement arrived and are light years away from being competent enough to deal with autism. Their perception of us is more or less the same as society’s view on autism…clueless or how about oblivious. Either one describes their thinking process.This is evident in how the police responded and handled a call from a distraught mother who needed help for her 13 year old autistic boy, who was having a meltdown. They are simply not trained well enough to comprehend and deal with autism.
BROTHERS FROM A DIFFERENT MOTHER. Both my sons and l have Asperger’s syndrome, the same diagnosis as Linden Cameron. Officially, Asperger’s syndrome no longer exists.The DSM-5 traded in Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, and PPD-NOS for a more unifying diagnosis, which they decided to call ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).
The DSM-5 (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders last published in 2013) is a reference manual used by psychiatric and psychological professionals to diagnose and classify mental disorders.
BEEN THERE. This tragic story hits close to my heart, because there were several times my wife, Tracia and l, were at the point of calling the police to assist us in handling our son, who was experiencing a meltdown.You have to understand that a meltdown is like a fire that’s raging.It needs oxygen to fuel its existence. This oxygen is a metaphor for the many things that may intensify an autistic meltdown.
What initiates the start of a meltdown could be misplacing a favorite toy, taking a bath or being hyper-focused on a particular subject and abruptly interfered with by someone or something. What accelerates a meltdown, among other things, can be a person yelling, shouting or ordering an autistic person to stop and cease their uncontrollable behavior. It simply escalates the situation. It’s adding fuel to the fire.
When our son was approaching his mid teens, he was getting bigger and stronger by the day. My son’s inability to process information would cause him to become overstimulated and lose control.His anxiety, stress, anger and frustration would surface, causing him to erupt, which would result in furniture being overturned, tables tossed, broken windows, doors ripped off their hinges, objects being thrown around the room and getting physical with his mother.
He was becoming violent and l did not want to place my hands on him for fear of hurting him or getting injured myself. There were a few times when we were failing to reach and connect with our son. We thought we needed help taking him to the crisis center.
(Once you arrive at a crisis center, they place your child at a facility professionally designed to handle his or her issues. You can wait for several hours or several days, depending on how long it takes for a bed to open up at a facility).
Note: l have personally witnessed wrongful behavior by the employees at these facilities, when dealing with my son and other children. These facilities are considered to be the best in the area. They need to better their game, as well, because it’s not acceptable, but this is another topic for discussion.
Sometimes, we could see a meltdown brewing. Other times we saw no indication that a potential meltdown was about to occur.Some little annoyance or disturbance may start out innocently and could blow up into a full blown meltdown, like a gust of wind developing into a category 5 tornado.Imagine a child seemingly content, then erupting into fits of yelling, cursing, punching, biting, and breaking objects that are in his or her vicinity.It’s like having front row seats and witnessing a live tornado developing in front of you, reeking havoc and destroying whatever is in its path right in your own living room.
HARNESSING A MELTDOWN. Dealing with meltdowns is an ongoing learning process for an autistic family. Love, patience and a trial-and-error approach is what’s required, when facing an autistic meltdown…..and yes, having consistency in your approach is a necessity, but you need to also recognize when something is not working and have the awareness to improvise in order to adjust and adapt along with your child, when dealing with their meltdown.
The single most important thing we have learned is to allow our son to de-escalate by keeping our cool.Body language is a vital form of communication. Remaining calm and controlling the volume of our voices are key elements in creating a tranquil and peaceful environment for our son.We can’t scream, shout or trigger him further by threatening or punishing him.
When meltdowns occur, we ignore the cursing and the physical damage. That’s not what’s important…it’s secondary. He is venting and acting out his frustrations and simply cannot regulate himself. He’s a boiler about to explode, like steam being built up and with no release valve.A meltdown is inevitable and it’s only a matter of time before he erupts.
This is what Linden Cameron was experiencing on the night of September 4th, 2020. He did not deserve to be shot down like an escaped convict.
What parents and caregivers need to do is remain diligent, focused, but firm, when comforting, consoling, and teaching their autistic child. We need our son to gain control of his emotions, which is easier said than done.As parents of two autistic children, we learn to wear many hats that fall under the title of “mother and father.” We are part hostage negotiator, when our son is hijacked by his meltdowns. We are part psychiatrist, when talking our son down off the ledge (figuratively speaking, thankfully).
After our son’s meltdown would begin to subside, we would re-enter as mommy and daddy and begin teaching our son to self-regulate, which enabled him to gain control of his emotions. He would gather himself and normalcy would soon be restored.
Our calming demeanor and supportive words had a de-escalating effect on my son. Whether this technique would work on other autistic people, l couldn’t say for sure, but it was the only positive result we consistently had with both our sons.
Afterwards, he would be apologetic and always show remorse for his behavior. At the end of these episodes, he would find peace within himself.Sometimes, he could not fully de-escalate, but to his credit, he was approachable enough to be convinced to go to the crisis center. Allowing him to have a say in the decision making process, made my son feel better about himself.
Of course, mom and dad were there to give him full support, regardless of his actions. We are his safety net and his lifeline. People have often asked us how we are able to deal with raising autism? It’s just called good parenting. That’s an understatement and perhaps being too modest. How about great parenting? I’ll go along with that.
A key concept for an autistic child or adult is knowing there is unconditional love and acceptance. It takes discipline and patience on our part not to lose sight of what our overall goal is for both our sons…..teaching them to think, act, and be responsible for their own decisions, while learning to accept consequences for any bad behavior.We would be the first to admit, at times we have failed to take our own advice. My wife and l are human. Over the years we have made plenty of mistakes, but we have grown and learned together. We, as an autistic family, have been battle-tested and we’ve earned our stripes.
HERE’S SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT…People on the spectrum are not going to react the same way, when they are approached by authority, whether it’s professional or parental.Many autistics have other disabilities or syndromes overlapping with their autism. This makes it a more complex situation, when confronting someone with autism, sooooo…how the hell are the police supposed to understand how to handle an autistic individual having a meltdown, when they arrive? Although not intentionally, police officers are being set up to fail and they are individually going to be the ones who take the fall, because they’re on the front lines, responding to a call.
The real culprit is law enforcement’s governing body. They are the guilty party that is failing autism and the mentally ill. The difference between psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, parents, caregivers and law enforcement is that police officers carry weapons with little or no experience, when confronting autistic children and adults.This is a dangerous combination for any autistic family to encounter.It’s a toxic situation that has led to human tragedy.Just ask Golda Barton and her son, Linden.
OH, YEAH…..DID WE MAKE THE CALL?
My wife and l never called the police. We will never know how our son would have reacted towards them and visa versa. I like to think that my wife and l, veterans of raising two autistic sons would have worked together with the police in addressing the situation at hand.If we felt the police were getting too aggressive, we would have stepped in, but what would have been the outcome? Over the years we have become aware of autistic life being abused and killed at the hands of law enforcement.This is not a conspiracy, this is not fake news and this is not an unfair statement.
This is a fact.We will never know how the police would have responded, but as an autistic family, we are grateful that we did not have to find out the answer.
WHY THE ATTITUDE? So why on more than one occasion do l see and hear official police statements being released displaying an air of ignorance, arrogance, callousness, and indifference, when responding to an incident that involves the police and autistic people or people with mental health issues.It’s not just words. Attitude and body language carry weight as well.Most people, including the medical world, think autistics do not pick up on body language. They may be true for the most part, but l am autistic and l relied heavily on body language, when l was growing up and still do.I don’t always fit the mold of what autism is supposed to be, but the more we learn about autism, the more we are finding out how diverse we are on the spectrum.
Just when you think you got autism figured out, it changes its colors.Autism has patients and does not give up its secrets so easily. So why the attitude? Well, l understand law enforcement cannot admit to wrongdoing. If there is an on-going investigation or a case pending, they have to be aware of what they say initially to the public, until they can gather all the facts and make a decision based on their findings before they release their official report. I get that.
What is missing is a lack of empathy from the people who are in charge of communicating with the public on such issues, such as the travesty that happened to Linden Cameron. There should be courses taught to educate those, who are the spokespeople for law enforcement that demonstrate a sensitive diplomatic approach, avoid using trigger words and negative or passive aggressive attitudes in their statements.
The old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is the perfect way to end…..Why the Attitude?
TO PROTECT AND SERVE…AN OATH SWORN BY PARENTS. As parents, we are aware of law enforcement’s incompetence in dealing with autism. l have come to the decision that if any police offer, who crosses the line and abuses their position, as a father, l will do whatever is needed to stop that officer from doing harm to my child…a child who has no weapons, just autism.
Protecting my son in this situation is a fight or flight reaction and yes, this would be a judgement call on my part. There is no judge and jury present.There are no books to read or professionals to assist you in that moment. Certainly, not law enforcement.l would place myself between my son and a police officer, whether it’s getting in a verbal argument or a physical brawl with the men in blue.In protecting my son, I may be arrested, tasered, shot or killed in the process or I may injure or take an officer’s life.
As parents, we took an oath to protect and serve, an oath that far exceeds the one taken by police officers. The same oath taken, l would think, by all parents, until the day we die. It comes with the territory. It’s part of the job and it’s in our DNA.The way l see it, once a police officer abuses his or her badge, all bets are off and anything goes. As a parent of two autistic children, l will protect them from any danger, regardless of where it comes from, including an incompetent individual, who carries a lethal weapon, taser or club…period.
OBJECTIONS? I am being completely honest about what course of action l would take in protecting my autistic sons. I said these words and l will stand by them, regardless of any opposing opinions or criticism that may disagree with my statements. At least you know where l stand and l have the courage to say it.
The failure of law enforcement and it’s inability to know how to approach and deal with autism and mental illness forces me, as a father of two autistic children, to contemplate and mentally prepare how l will respond, if or when police officers come in contact with my sons.Does this sound wrong? It feels awkward to consciously apply this thinking process in order to keep myself aware that what happened to Linden Cameron could happen to my sons. Awkward, perhaps, but necessary. Police officers are supposed to protect and serve, right?
Keep this in mind. I am quite aware that the chances of my kids being abused by law enforcement is very low, especially at this point in their life.They have outgrown their meltdowns, because they have matured and learned to adapt and adjust to the different things that would have triggered them in the past. As parents, we have given our sons life lessons and continue to educate them in order to prepare them to face whatever life will throw at them.
This does not change my mind or lower my guard, when it comes to law enforcement. Their failure to protect and serve is always present, so that means, as a father, l will always be present to protect and serve my kids.
Never in my life would l think l would have to prepare myself to do battle with a professional group of people who are supposed to be on the same side of protect and serve. Maybe if you had autistic kids you might think differently, too.As it stands right now, the abuse and loss of autistic life is going to continue to happen….again and again and again, until there is change.
NOW HOLD ON…I AM EMPATHETIC TO BOTH SIDES. When l was younger and single, l hung with a lot of cops from the 25th district in Philadelphia. Some were detectives and a couple of my closest friends were police officers. I heard all their war stories.They had great stories about fighting the bad guys. Some stories were borderline comical. Others were tragic and sad and some were abuse of authority with no excuses given.
During their careers as police officers, they have experienced the human species at its best and worst, more than most of us experience in a lifetime.The police have to grow a thick skin, a kind of callousness, along with a dark sense of humor, because of what they experience in their line of work.It’s self-preservation. I get that.They have a high rate of divorce and alcohol for some, has been the choice of self-medication, when dealing with stress and anxiety.
I knew of a lot of cops who wanted to make a difference, but the system worked against them and interfered with them doing their job.Frustration creeped in and wore them down. At some point they just want to collect their paycheck and go home and call it a day. I have listened to what these guys have had to deal with on and off the job.
Although law enforcement has abused and taken autistic life, I do not hate cops or wish them any harm. We, as a society, need them.In my book, l am presently writing about how only through a major tragedy or a series of recurring tragedies, can there bring about change, a change to correct a wrong of major proportions that would affect many lives and the future of society. For example, take the R.M.S.Titanic, a luxury British steamship that sank in 1912. After the sinking, the maritime laws and safety standards were changed to ensure a tragedy like this would not occur again. Why does it always take a tragedy to make changes that seem so obvious in the first place?
The case of Linden Cameron could be the spark to create that change, but in all probability, it will take more tragedies to make an established wrong a right.
So my question is…How many more tragedies will occur before there is a change to law enforcement and how they deal with people who are neurologically and mentally challenged? We think differently, because we are wired differently, but we are not criminals and we should not be treated as one….that’s a tragedy.
HERE IS MY TAKE ON LAW ENFORCEMENT AND IT’S CONSERVATIVE THINKING PROCESS. We all try to better ourselves in our personal and professional lives.As a professional artist, l am my own worst critic, so I want to be able to perform at my best. I seek out the newest techniques and materials in order to do the best job l can for my clients.
It’s the same with a doctor. He or she needs to keep up-to-date with new procedures and equipment in order to be at their best for their patients.This is true for those who work in the culinary world, the safety industry, and NASA.
It seems to me law enforcement needs to up their game.Their performance is subpar, when it comes to dealing with mental illness.I would think that being a police officer is probably one of the toughest jobs to perform correctly from day to day. It’s impossible to know how to best handle all the situations that may arise in the urban or rural areas of this country.
Law enforcement has to be willing to change and have plasticity in its thinking process to better protect and serve society. All of society would benefit from this change, including law enforcement.They can no longer circle the wagons and blindly cover each other’s back and ignore the problems that are coming to the forefront about their outdated tactics and archaic procedures that have led to tragic endings and police brutality.
Law enforcement needs to look in the mirror and have a gut check on their past performance or lack of it.Let’s figure out what needs to be done and be transparent about it.Right now, there exists an “Us vs. Them” mentality.We have to start by listening…..just listen and have respect and empathy for both sides and begin.
GOOD COP, BAD COP (Makes no difference).Ignorance can infiltrate and corrupt the mind and hijack the senses.Those who see, hear, and feel can become blind, deaf and numb to the opinions and perspectives of others. Ignorance has no boundaries, regardless of one’s education or status in life. It can spread and contaminate society’s thinking process.My point is…it doesn’t matter if it’s an asshole with a badge or an honest, decent, hard working man or woman in uniform, law enforcement, good or bad, is lacking the skills in dealing with autism (and mental health), which at its worst, has resulted in the loss of autistic life.
HOW I WOULD HANDLE LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THEIR BRUTALITY TOWARDS LINDEN CAMERON. At first, this tragedy hit me right in the gut, in fact, it was more like a shot below the belt. I felt stunned and outraged beyond words, when l found out about the shooting of Linden Cameron.As l mentioned before, my wife and l have been in the same position that Golda Barton found herself in, when Linden was having a meltdown.
Although my son endured many meltdowns, there were only two times we thought we may have needed additional help in assisting us with our son’s meltdowns. On both occasions, my wife and l were finally able to calm our son down and avoided calling for help.Unfortunately, Golda Barton was the only parent there, when her son was having a meltdown.A parent can feel overwhelmed and outmatched, when an autistic episode flairs up. She was seeking help from the professionals, who in the end, failed her and her son.
I think if l had fired a weapon at my kid 11 times, filling him full of holes, l would have been locked up with the key thrown away. I wanted to see the book thrown at this police officer.
I wanted the harshest sentence the judge could hand down to this abusive thug. Linden Cameron and his family should be rewarded a ton of money to compensate for the tragedy that was brought on by law enforcement and throw in a huge apology, as well.
After my anger subsided, l began to think empathetically about the entire situation that had occurred with this family. I thought what would be the punishment for this police officer and how could law enforcement learn from this tragedy.l would like to know the answer to this question. Is this officer remorseful and does he want to find redemption or does he feel he did his job and is sticking by his actions, as barbaric as they may be?
Linden Cameron is the George Floyd of Autism. His story has already impacted the autistic world.At Linden’s expense, he bears the burden of law enforcement’s own version of a catastrophic meltdown.
Regardless of how the courts determine the outcome of his case, this tragedy makes the perfect argument for a higher authority (Supreme Court) to get involved, flex its muscle and make a landmark decision that would change the existing laws to better protect and serve those who are neurologically and mentally challenged.
These new laws would then be put into effect, educating our law enforcement nationwide and this would single-handedly reduce the abusive and deadly force that law enforcement has been guilty of, but not held accountable for in the past.
My autistic brain is wired differently. I’m an empath and l began to think maybe there was an opportunity here to do something outside the box. So with that in mind…here is what l purpose to the courts, when making a decision, concerning the officer, who gunned down my autistic little brother.
The judge would give this officer a choice. He can go to jail and receive a long prison term, which he certainly deserves, or the judge would allow this man to remain a police officer. He would serve, let’s just say, a 5 year assignment for starters (this would be flexible). This assignment would be working with autistic organizations to learn about autism and our people. Then, report back to fellow police officers and teach them about how to approach and communicate with people on the spectrum, thus becoming an advocate for autism.If he accepted advocacy, it would be done under the watchful eye of the court, in a joint partnership with the autistic community using autistic guidelines, so everyone involved would be on the same page in monitoring the progress of the police officer and the precincts/districts that are participating in this new type of advocacy.If the officer fails in his new assignment as advocate for autism for whatever reason, he would go directly to jail and finish the remainder of his sentence, where a predetermined amount of time would be decided by the court, prior to the officer’s initial sentencing.
One more thing…he would be banned from carrying a weapon…EVER.
It would be ground-breaking. This progressive thinking would be evolutionary for law enforcement, mental health and all involved.The officer would continue to receive the same pay and benefits from the police department.
Depending on how long the sentence is, after completing his advocacy program, he would have the option to continue working as an advocate for autism in the police department until retirement or walk away. Once he retires or walks away, his career as a police officer would be over.It’s that simple. That would be his choice, but he can’t have it both ways. Look at it this way.If a police officer was given the choice to redeem himself as an officer of the law and was permitted to continue his life with his family, maybe he would grow into appreciating his role as an advocate for autism.It could be a win/win situation for autism, law enforcement and society.
A person would have to be void of any empathy and compassion not to be moved or affected by working with people on the spectrum, not to mention receiving a second chance in life.If l was in this position, l would be humbled by such an offer. I would be on my knees, kissing the courts’ ass and begging Linden Cameron to find forgiveness for my horrific actions that l have brought upon him and his family.
Individuals, who have made tragic mistakes in life, are sometimes so affected by their wrongful actions, they embrace the negativity they have brought on others and become very remorseful and humble to the point of becoming driven to want to redeem themselves for their past actions.A self-introspection can motivate an individual to seek redemption on a personal level or do unprecedented work in a particular field.
This is what l hope for in this situation. Introduce autistic advocacy for law enforcement, starting with this police officer. It is creative problem solving and it starts with a thought…a seed that if given the chance, can be nurtured and grow from concept to fruition.This officer would better himself, not just as a police officer, but as a human being.