Benevides plans this week to help train police recruits to resolve such encounters with "de-escalation tactics:" speak calmly, give space, be patient.
The 11 recruits will be the first police class in Howard County to take the four-hour training on intellectual and developmental disabilities after it became a requirement for recruits across Maryland.
Some of the 11 recruits had their first encounters with autism Sunday evening, during a pool party with the Howard County Autism Society. The recruits served pizza poolside at Life Time Athletic in Columbia. About 40 families arrived.
"I just fear people won't understand my son," said Sabina Sambat, mother of 12-year-old Niko.
The mandatory police training comes three years after a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome died in a struggle with Frederick County sheriff's deputies.
Robert "Ethan" Saylor died after deputies tried to remove him from a Frederick movie theater.
Saylor attended a screening of "Zero Dark Thirty" with an aide and refused to leave when it ended. Three off-duty sheriff's deputies working as security officers handcuffed Saylor.
According to the sheriff's office, Saylor suffered a "medical emergency." The deputies removed the handcuffs, attempted CPR and called for emergency workers, the sheriff's office said. Saylor died soon after.
A medical examiner ruled his death a homicide and found that Saylor died of positional asphyxia and excited delirium, complicated by his disability and weight. A grand jury declined to indict the sheriff's deputies, and an internal investigation cleared them of wrongdoing.
Eight months after Saylor's death, then-Gov. Martin O'Malley met with his family and pledged to improve police training. He formed a commission that recommended all new recruits be trained on intellectual and development disabilities. The Maryland Police Training Commission adopted the recommendation last year.