Last September, 22-year-old Ahmad Ziqri Morshidi who is autistic, was arrested for allegedly touching a woman’s breasts. He spent a night in lock-up and was freed on bail the next day. His mother, Hasnah Abdul Rahman, had to calm him down and told Ahmad he was in a ‘Gerak Khas’ movie.
The police were faced with major backlash on how they handled things, although they claimed they followed standard operating procedures (SOP). The victim and her parents also received backlash for lodging a report even after being told Ahmad was autistic.
Hasnah said she does not blame the police but wished they had handled the arrest with consideration towards her child’s situation, as he does not understand what’s happening.
What followed was an outcry for implementing better SOPs for the arrest of people with disabilities. Because there could be risks involved when dealing with individuals with autism.
It was reported that people with autism are more likely to get into trouble with the law. People with autism may feel anxious and overwhelmed by the presence of an authoritative figure. Therefore, if an officer was not aware of the suspect’s autistic condition, and if the suspect lashes out in frustration, the officer will respond to it as a sign of aggression.
Hence, the suspect’s impaired sense of danger puts both parties at risk from getting hurt.
Recently, PDRM updated the standard operating procedure (SOP) to include arresting suspects with autism. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun credits Research and Development Secretariat at Bukit Aman Datuk Ramli Din for the six months effort in revising the SOP.
Furthermore, the police plan to set up two autism centres at the Police Training Centre in Pulapol and the Royal Malaysian Police College in Cheras.
Hopefully, the new SOP would make things easier for every party, be it law enforcers, autistic suspects and their family members.