O'Malley names Special Olympics CEO to lead new panel

Commission to study training guidelines for police after Ethan Saylor, a Frederick man with Down syndrome, died in police custody this year

  • Robert Ethan Saylor is shown in this family photograph released to Reuters on February 20, 2013. Saylor, 26, who had Down syndrome, was arrested on January 12, 2013 and died while in custody of Frederick County, Maryland Sheriff's.
Robert Ethan Saylor is shown in this family photograph released… (Reuters )
September 17, 2013|Erin Cox | The Baltimore Sun

Gov. Martin O'Malley appointed the national head of the Special Olympics as chairman of a new committee that will determine how well law enforcement officers are trained to handle encounters with people with disabilities. 

Timothy Shriver, CEO and chairman of the board at the Special Olympics, will lead the committee O'Malley announced Tuesday.

It comes nearly two weeks after the family of Robert "Ethan" Saylor asked O'Malley to further investigate Saylor's Jan. 12 death while in custody of Frederick County deputy sheriffs.  Three off-duty sheriffs moonlighting at a movie theater detained Saylor, who was 26 and had Down syndrome, after Saylor refused to leave the theater.  

Though the officers were cleared by an internal investigation and a grand jury, the Saylor family and more than 340,000 people signed a petition asking O'Malley for further inquiry.

Instead, O'Malley formed the "Commission for Effective Community Inclusion of Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities" to study how law enforcement is trained and offer suggestions for future training. The group's first report on statewide training standards is due Jan. 9, the day Saylor would have turned 27.

Shriver, whose mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics, said in a statement that "there remains a vast gap in understanding - a gap that all too frequently results in stigma, exclusion and painful injustice. Our mission will be to close that gap so that first responders will be the leaders and models of inclusion, acceptance, and support in their communities.” 

Patti Saylor, Ethan's mother, called the commission "one piece" in ensuring what happened to her son does not happen to anyone else.

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