25 February 2016

This Needs to Go Viral

With all the bad press aimed at police departments around the country - and sometimes bad things do happen - we don't hear enough about the good things they do.

Here's one.
The Officer and Harley: A Lesson in Kindness

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Your child is off somewhere in the world without you and something goes wrong. With children who have developmental disabilities or mental illness, something is bound to go wrong at some point. So you craft action plans. You practice what to do. You get their care providers on the same page. You hope your action plan will work if and when needed. Many times it will. But there’s always the possibility that one time, in some ordinary place doing some ordinary thing, something will go awry. Then what?

The Anchorage Police Department has a volunteer training program to help its officers make the best possible decisions when encountering people with autism, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, depression or any other condition that can affect a person’s behavior and how well he or she might respond to police.

For parents, the worst nightmare isn’t the meltdown. It’s how other people will react, and then how your child will react to them. Will the others -- store clerks, passersby, waiters, managers -- be well-meaning helpers who unknowingly muck things up even more? Or maybe they will be disrupters and increase stress and tension as they try to firmly get matters under control. What then? What if the police show up and rattle off a bunch of questions or issue orders at your child, who can’t handle being addressed in that way? Will your child run off? Lash out? What if an officer tries to put their hands on your child, who cannot tolerate touch?

The worst nightmare is that someone will get hurt.

Harley Hamilton, a senior at West High living with downs syndrome and autism, gives Anchorage police officer Matt Fraize a side hug at Sagaya City Market on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016. Watching at left is DeVon Brentlinger, one of Harley’s caregivers.
Loren Holmes / ADN

Hamilton asked a friend, Angie Fraize, an Anchorage police officer who serves with her on the Governor’s Council for Disabilities and Special Education, what to do. Fraize helped coordinate a coffee date for Harley with her husband, Matt, who is also an Anchorage police officer. The goal? Get Harley to understand police as helpers, as safe people she can trust.

“The face of law enforcement is changing with the times. But we have to. We have to show people that we are human. That we are dads and moms,” Angie Fraize said over coffee last week. She grew up with an uncle who had Down syndrome, and one of her two daughters has the condition.

Matt Fraize, a large man who once played football for the University of Washington, showed up in uniform to the coffee date with Harley. He asked if he could sit with Harley and her mother, who suggested, “Harley would love for a handsome man in uniform to sit across from her.”

Harley hugged officer Fraize, beaming during the half-hour visit that ended with a ride home, without Mom, in the police car. During a second meeting, Harley tried to tickle officer Fraize, nuzzled his side, gave a friendly head-butt and a quick kiss to his right shoulder before they walked over to his patrol car, holding hands.

“A lot of us are parents of kids with special needs. And so we get it. We have the same fears for our children,” Matt Fraize said.

Heroes like Officer Fraize need all the good publicity they can get. This is a wonderful program.


Vicki said...

As the grandmother of an autistic grandchild, I stand up and applaud this police departments efforts to make the world a better place, especially for those who already have issues to deal with.

Ed Bonderenka said...


Well Seasoned Fool said...


Murphy's Law said...

Now that's just too nice..

Old NFO said...

Amen to that. Well done to him and APD!

Sandy said...


This is just totally awesome!
We need more positive stories like this.

Chickenmom said...

That's a wonderful story, Rev. Paul - thank you for posting! My niece is a detective and she said that people would be surprised how some kids are taught to be afraid of the police by their parents.

Guffaw in AZ said...

Good job, Officer!
Sadly, 'news' is not that which is new. It is that which is new, that is negative.
'If it bleeds, it leads.'
And, generally, positive stories are relegated to page 2, whether on a newspaper or TV script.
Good job, Rev. Paul, for passing this along!
(I may be stealing this!)


Rev. Paul said...

Thank you all. It's that type of story which is all too rare, these days.

Ajdshootist said...

I wish we had police officers like that over here in the UK most of the one i have come to know are bullys full of there own self importance you might come across one in a blue moon thats a decent human being but in all my years thats very rare.

Rev. Paul said...

We have about a 50/50 mix of 'good guys' versus 'bullies' here, based on admittedly anecdotal evidence. Sorry to hear yours are tilted so far toward the latter.

Ajdshootist said...

Rev Paul i know of Two that left as they were told they were not nicking enough people and another who was a good friend who killed himself because he was so hated.

Dixon Webb said...

Terrific !