SC Autism Society seeks statewide training after controversial arrest in Greenville

SC Autism Society seeks statewide training after controversial arrest in Greenville

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Controversy over how police arrested a Greenville man with autism, has one group calling for statewide changes in law enforcement training.

On Christmas Eve, police tased, then arrested 34-year-old Tario Anderson, after they say Anderson ignored three requests to stop walking, then ran away.

Officers were in Anderson's neighborhood investigating gunshots heard in the area.

Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller said officers didn't know Anderson was autistic, and is working to drop charges against him.

"That doesn't mean that the arrest was unlawful," Miller said. "It just means that given his mental condition it would be inappropriate to prosecute him."

Less than a week after the controversial arrest, the South Carolina Autism Society (SCAS) announced plans to host training sessions next year for state law enforcement officers and first responders.

CEO Kim Thomas said the group has been working to host the specialized training before the Greenville incident, but thanked police for dropping charges against Anderson, and the community for advocating on his behalf.

"They're doing their job and they're trained to respond," Thomas said.  "We certainly don't feel like they've done anything wrong."

SCAS has targeted three cities for training next May, which include Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville.

Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis said city officers received training in-house, on how to interact with people who have mental health issues, but would welcome more training, specific to autism.

"The way you deal with someone on the spectrum is going to be a lot different than the way you would deal with a typical person you might be apprehending," said SCAS CEO Kim Thomas.

The group is working with the Police Academy and EMS to offer credit for the training.

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