Local corrections officers try to better understand people with developmental disabilities

The Arc Southern Maryland trains Maryland corrections officers how to interact with people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. (Caroline Patrickis/ABC7)

It's been five years since the death of 26-year-old Robert Ethan Saylor of New Market. He died after he suffocated to death Jan. 12, 2013 at the Westview Stadium 16 cinema.

The Frederick County Sheriff's Office says 3 deputies, moonlighting as security officers, were trying to forcibly remove him from the theater after he refused to leave and became disruptive. An autopsy showed Saylor died of asphyxiation brought on by his Down syndrome. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, but the grand jury found no evidence to charge the deputies.

The death of Saylor is still fresh on the minds of many including those who share intellectual and developmental disabilities like Saylor.

Since that time, there has been a promise to improve police training and explore ways to better educate police about interacting with people with developmental disabilities.

Thursday, the Arc Southern Maryland conducted a training at the Southern Maryland Criminal Justice Academy with a room full of local corrections officers.

It's their latest attempt to better educate local officers on how to interact with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"This is something that is very important to self-advocates. The training gives officers first hand interactions with them. It's important that it's not an instructor up there to talk about people with disabilities. It's people with disabilities sharing their real stories" said Connie Willoughby, Arc of Southern Maryland.

One of those advocates stood up in front of the class Thursday morning to explain his condition. Andrew spoke emotionally about his Shaken Baby Syndrome that was caused by a family member. Several other self-advocates with permanent brain damage and various conditions also spoke to train officers.

They say the goal is to educate officers that people with disabilities can be very complex but knowledge could hope to prevent a tragedy like Saylor's.

The Arc Southern Maryland has conducted 32 training sessions, trained 673 law enforcement and corrections officers and has included 38 self-advocates (people with intellectual or developmental disabilities) and 18 staff in these classes.

Watch this Facebook Live of an explanation by staff members who teach the class and meet some of the self-advocates.

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