A police officer in North Carolina decided to take a slightly different approach in addressing an autistic, potentially suicidal teen. He calmly sat down with the teen and soothed him. The photo of the policeman sitting on the pavement and chatting with the teenager has gone viral, with many on the internet appreciating the humane approach adopted by the cop.
Officer Tim Purdy, belonging to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, sat down and carefully and calmly soothed an autistic and potentially suicidal teenager. The photo posted on the police department’s Facebook’s page has gone viral with 720K likes and more than 250K shares. Over 31K people have left comments of appreciation for the cop who chose to address the core issue and helped the teenager instead of going by the book and apprehending him before he caused any trouble.
The heart-warming incident happened late last week. The teenager had wandered away from his high school campus. Officer Purdy was dispatched to handle the delicate and potentially dangerous situation. With a recorded history of violent behavior because of a neuro-developmental disorder, the teen was not only a danger to others, but he was a threat to himself.
After the police department dispatched Officer Purdy on receiving reports about an 18-year-old autistic male with history of violent behavior wandering around the campus, the policeman knew he had a very tricky situation on his hands,
“I was just thinking to myself, ‘What are you going to do? What are you going to do? How are you going to handle that?'”
The officer discovered the teen near the school campus. Watching a cop approaching, the teen sat down. To avoid a confrontation and connect with the teenager, the officer followed suit.
“I got down on my knees and kind of made that eye contact. We just started talking and it went from there.”
Officer Purdy realized he would have to establish a connection with the teenager and the best way was through engaging him in casual conversation. Hence, the cop sat with the high school senior and talked through his feelings for 15 to 20 minutes, reported ABC News. Rob Tufano, a spokesperson for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said the two talked about school, about family, and football. “He even got him laughing, and got him back with his mom and with school officials,” added Tufano.
Officer Purdy doesn’t think he did anything extraordinary and merely performed his duty, just like many officers do every day,
“This is something that tens of thousands of law enforcement officers that are out there do every single day. You just don’t hear about it.”
Through the casual but engaging conversation, Purdy was able to gain the boy’s trust and establish a relationship that allowed police to get him the “help that he so desperately needed,” noted the post, reported KTLA. The department added that enforcing the law is merely a small part of their duty. A major aspect of the job involves helping people,
“There’s more to policing than making arrests and enforcing the law. Sometimes taking those extra little steps makes the biggest difference in someone’s life.”
Autism is a very tricky condition. It involves depression, anxiety, and associated symptoms that prevent logical thinking. People suffering from autism can get emotionally charged and violent over trivial reasons. A sudden outburst of uncontrollable rage is one of the symptoms that is often mistaken for tantrums.
Officer Purdy was one of the “first responders,” and he handled the situation with utmost care, shared Lindsay Naeder, who works with Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to funding research and increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, reported Fox News.
[Photo by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department]