Peel Region police reviewing how force interacts with people with autism

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
Peel Region police reviewing how force interacts with people with autism

TORONTO — Peel Regional Police are reviewing how they engage with people with autism after officers used a stun gun on a non-verbal autistic teen earlier this month. 

The force has said police used a stun gun on 19-year-old Abdullah Darwich on Nov. 4 after responding to a report about a “suspicious person” allegedly trying to enter a vehicle and a house while undressed. 

The teen’s father has said his son left his Mississauga, Ont., house in shorts and had to be treated in hospital for injuries, including cuts on his face, after his interaction with police. 

Peel police said they recognize the “severe impact” the interaction had on Darwich, his family and the community, and the force is reviewing the “totality of the circumstances.” 

Officers are increasingly called to situations involving community members with “complex health and social needs” and require the knowledge to respond accordingly, police said. 

“In light of the incident involving the Darwich family, and similar occurrences in other jurisdictions, we are evaluating how we identify and constructively engage people with autism,” the force wrote in a statement. 

“We are currently in the process of consulting subject matter experts to identify how we can better serve this community.”

Police said they told the teen’s father, Majd Darwich, that he could file a complaint with a police watchdog. 

Darwich said it was very clear his son was dealing with a mental health issue when the police arrived and used a stun gun on him. 

“Those policemen did something wrong to to my son,” he said. “When they found him playing with leaves outside, I mean, it was very clear that this guy is having some mental problem.”

Darwich said people like his son should have the right to live peacefully in society.

“Abdullah, my son, and other people like him, they have the right to live in peace in this country. It’s not fair. What happened to him, it could happen to anybody else in his situation.”

Darwich said he is considering legal action against police.

“I (have) already spoken with a lawyer and we are in process of preparing the file to sue,” he said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2022. 

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