Rhode Island police indifferent to disabled detainee

Posted on Oct 07, 2007

The caretakers of Anthony Smith of Rhode Island say his disability should have been apparent to anyone who spent five minutes with him. According to them, Smith’s uncle explained to the police he had mental difficulties.

However a recent run-in with police officers in the city of Johnston highlights a problem for certain Rhode Islanders — those who could be incapable of answering a police officer’s questions due to a disability.

Robert L. Carl Jr., the chief executive officer of the Homestead Group, an organization that supports people with various developmental disabilities, says that this is issue is not uncommon.

Smith, 43, was a passenger in his uncle’s car when the car was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation. Smith was detained for not answering the questions of a Johnston police officer. Smith was released after being taken to the police station for an ID check. He was sitting in the foyer of the police station the last time the police saw him.

He disappeared on September 11, 2007 , bringing widespread attention. Fortunately, Smith was found in a park in Danielson, Connecticut on September 23 alive and well. Smith said that he had walked to the park from Johnston which is a total distance of 25 miles. The police were accused of bias by some critics.

Disabled citizens need more that Social Security Disability benefits. They need understanding and thoughtfulness from their fellow citizens. Anthony Smith did not get either from the police in Johnson, Rhode Island.

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