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How Can This Happen?

Posted by: Olga Kharif on December 19, 2006

I live in Portland, Ore., and we’d just had a horrible happening here: Some police officers fired shots and beat up a 15-year-old autistic boy whom they took to be an adult under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The boy was walking along shirtless. He was carrying a stick. Because he is autistic, he wouldn’t reply or respond to officers’ questions or commands.

I can’t believe there’s no technology out there that can help prevent this kind of horrible incidents. I write about all these amazing technologies: EVDO, RFID, Wi-Fi, WiMax. There’s GPS, iris recognition. Why isn’t any of this used to help the police and disabled people out? Why isn’t it used to prevent incidents like this?

Perhaps an autistic boy could wear a wireless tag which a police officer might be able to scan at a distance to determine that the person he’s encountered is disabled, and not a drug addict. That’s just one idea.

We consider ourselves to be this high-tech society. And yet, this kind of stuff is allowed to happen to human beings. For shame.

Reader Comments

Mark Dolmen

December 20, 2006 1:19 AM

Technology will never be a replacement or a substitute for sensitivity, professional attitude, and human respect. Even worse, technology can become the scapegoat for those horrible situations and distract our attention from "human" faults.


Mike S

December 20, 2006 9:52 AM

I like this idea. I have a child, and know others, with special needs children. However, whenever something like this gets put in place, there is always some crook out there that will leverage this information and wear the tag themselves to exploit the system. Of course, those are exceptions - and these kids need some extra protections/precautionary measures in place. I'm interested to see if any other readers have ideas.

Karsten Malle

December 20, 2006 10:25 AM

I am from Denmark so this might seem offending to you.

Americans seem awfully centered on effect rather than cause. Why should the police force be dependent on technology in such hilariously simple decisions?

1. Maybe the Police could rely on common sense in situations like this and not just shoot and beat up ANYONE who walks around without a shirt (eg. "horrible accident").

2. Before the first option becomes a valid solution to the problem - you must of course hire police officers who can think for themselves and have a repository of non-violent solutions to these kinds of problems. Neither seems to be the case here...

Marc Dangeard

December 20, 2006 5:27 PM

Or perhaps we can educate the police not to beat up and shoot on people just because they don't answer and act strange. I don't really like the idea of tagging people, you would start with autistic boys, but where would you stop? How about learning to care about people instead...


December 21, 2006 2:28 PM you're advocating "chipping" autistic individuals like animals...why stop there? why not tag everyone with AIDS? let's chip alcoholics, let's chip anyone allergic to peanuts, let's chip everyone with children!

wouldn't the easier solution be just to train police officers not to be brutal in their dealings with the public? A little human decency goes a long way.


December 23, 2006 10:29 PM

Perhaps we should tag all black males between the age of 12 and 45. This tagging solution might have saved Rodney King a few problems.

Hang on....what am I talking about?
Why don't we just hire policemen with IQs of more than 80.


December 31, 2006 1:05 PM

Olga, your posting makes me ill. Maybe tech can help, but the problem is with poor policing and a society that is not concerned with it. Our police have lost a sense of professionalism and service that would have prevented this. Nothing excuses their behavior. Technology is not the solution nor is a lack of it the problem.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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