Florida House Seeking Autism Training for Law Enforcement


HB39 was drafted as a response to an incident in North Miami last summer in which unarmed behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey was shot by North Miami Police while retrieving an unarmed autistic patient, Arnaldo Rios-Soto, who had strayed from the facility. Video surfaced of Kinsey complying with police orders to lie on the ground and put his hands up, causing outrage as to why he was shot. Officer Jonathon Aledda fired three rounds from his assault rifle, one of which struck Kinsey’s leg. Law enforcement officials say that Aledda believed the toy truck Rios-Soto had was a firearm and that Aledda fired at Rios-Soto in order to protect Kinsey.

The fact that Officer Aledda fired at an autistic man caused dismay from mental health professionals who claim Rios-Soto was displaying autistic tendencies and that law enforcement officials need better training in recognizing the condition. Representative Evan Jenne (D) sponsored a similar bill during the 2016 legislative session, but the House never took it up. In light of the traumatizing event of July 2016, Representative Jenne and Representative Stafford (D) have taken up the cause again this session and seem to have plenty of support, but may face political hindrances along the way.