A Kansas cop broke an autistic teen’s wrist while handcuffing him for walking his dog with no leash. The officer’s suggested punishment is a training course.

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A file image showing Topeka, Kansas, from above. Getty Images/Chris Boswell
  • A police officer in Topeka, Kansas, detained an autistic 14-year-old over an allegation that he was walking his dog without a leash.
  • The officer ended up tackling the teen to the ground and handcuffing him after the encounter escalated.
  • The teen was taken to the hospital afterwards and diagnosed with a fractured wrist.
  • An official review described the encounter as “concerning”, and recommended that the officer undergo de-escalation training.
  • The teen’s mother said that the review was too lenient.
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A police officer in Topeka, Kansas, broke the wrist of an autistic teen whom he challenged for walking his dog without a leash.

The incident last month prompted an external review, which didn’t recommend to punish the officer directly.

It instead suggested he re-do the department’s standard de-escalation training, a response the boy’s mother criticised as too lenient.

The boy and officer were not named in the review. The Topeka Capital-Journal and Vice News both reported that the boy is autistic. Vice named the officer as David Ziegler.

According to an account published on Facebook by the Topeka Police Department, the officer was responding to a call reporting a boy riding his bike accompanied by a dog without a leash.

City rules ban taking a dog out in public without a leash. Per the police Facebook post, the caller claimed the boy was riding with the leash-less dog for the second time in three days.

According to a report by Topeka’s independent police auditor, the officer attempted to handcuff the boy, who was not named, and ended up tackling him to the ground.

The report said that the boy was taken to hospital later and found that he had a fractured wrist.

According to the auditor report, sourced from video footage and interviews, the encounter went like this:

  • The officer stopped the teen verbally and asked his name. The boy refused.
  • The officer threatened to detain the teen, then forced his arms behind his back. The teen resisted.
  • The officer took out pepper spray and threatened to use it.
  • Two dogs approached the officer and started barking.
  • The officer let go of the teen, pepper sprayed one dog and re-engaged.
  • The officer forced the teen to the ground on his back, then rolled him over.
  • The officer put his knee on the teen’s back, then handcuffed him.

After the encounter, the audit report said that police backup arrived, as did the teenager’s mother. It ended with the teen being let go.

Four days later, the auditor spoke to the teen and his mother and learned that he had been diagnosed with a broken wrist after the encounter and put in a cast.

The auditor described the officer’s handling of the situation as “concerning” and noted that “not every encounter requires handcuffing.”

He recommended that the police officer’s superiors review his decision to detain the teen, and that the officer “complete a refresher in de-escalation training and use of verbal communication.”

Marlena Mitchiner, the boy’s mother, told Vice that the audit was too easy on the officer.