This story ran last March, but it’s worth another look to show that there are police officers who, with patience and compassion, take a closer look before using any force.
Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police in her own apartment one year ago.
George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Dreck Chauvin when the officer held his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes.
According to Statista (Mar. 20), “the rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans was much higher than for any other ethnicity, standing at 35 fatal shootings per million of the population as of February 2021.”
However, there are thousands of police officers who take a different approach to lawbreakers and those who act unpredictably. North Carolina Police Officer Tim Purdy is one example.
The event took place last May when a Black teenager wandered away from home. The teen had a history of violent behavior. Sgt. Purdy knew the teen and was also aware that he was autistic. When Purdy arrived on the scene, two other officers were struggling, attempting to restrain the teenager. Purdy got out of his police vehicle walked over and took a different approach.
“I was just thinking to myself,” Purdy told CNN’s Martin Savidge, ‘What are you going to do? What are you going to do? How are you going to handle that?’ ” he recalled.
The teen sat down on a curb of the parking lot and Purdy sat down with him.
“I got down on my knees and kind of made that eye contact,” Purdy said. “We just started talking, and it went from there.”
They talked about “football, the Panthers,” family, and soon, the two were laughing. together.
CNN’s Savidge asked, “Was the getting down on his level training or something you had just learned.”
“It was something I learned over the years,” Purdy said
“ ‘This is something that tens of thousands of law enforcement officers that are out there do every single day,’ Purdy said in a video. ‘You just don’t hear about it.’ ”
“There’s more to policing than making arrests and enforcing the law,” Purdy emphasized. “Sometimes, taking those extra little steps makes the biggest difference in someone’s life,” the post said.
“This is a great opportunity to showcase autism,” Purdy said.
“Among those applauding the officer’s actions is Lindsay Naeder of Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to funding research and increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders,” CNN reported.
“ ‘We at Autism Speaks are excited to see this officer go the extra mile,’ Naeder said. ‘We usually see a negative story go viral.’
“She said the officer’s approach – trying to establish eye contact – was key.
“It’s very emotional. You can really see it means a lot to that young man.”
“ ‘It’s common for people with autism to wander away from a safe setting such as school,’ Naeder said. ‘They may also face other challenges, such as depression and anxiety. All of those situations can place the autism community at great risk,’ she said.”
As Sgt. Purdy points out “This is what tens of thousands of law enforcement officers that are out there do every single day.”
“Autism Speaks maintains a nationwide initiative to train first responders, providing them with guidelines for communicating with people with autism in emergency situations. It also provides services to individuals with autism and their families,” the CNN report added.
The police department posted the photo on its Facebook page in mid-May. It has been shared more than 250,000 times.
Appearing on the same page as the story of Officer Purdy, CNN posted video stories of others that have helped people in their communities. All, and many thousands like them, demonstrate the compassion, character and responsibility that goes that extra mile.
Seeing ourselves in another is the best way police, and ourselves, can begin to understand each other — something that’s necessary today, more than ever.