“Beyond the call,” you may not know, is the motto of the Vancouver Police Department.
But this week, the Vancouver mother of an autistic child’s thank you letter to a pair of VPD officers for going just that is going viral.
Alexandra Samuel joined CKNW’s Shane Foxman today to talk about how the officers stepped in when her son was having a meltdown, and how their approach had a particular impact.
LISTEN: Alexandra Samuel tells the story of her open letter to the VPD
It all happened last week when Samuel’s 10-year-old was “raging” after being told he wouldn’t get to watch YouTube that night.
He tried to run out into traffic, and became upset to the point she had to physically hold him down.
She says it wasn’t the first time she’d had to deal with a situation like this, but when a pair of female police officers showed up she got nervous.
“I’m certainly conscious as people are walking by that people might look at this and think I’m being abusive towards my son, they may think that he’s dangerous… and so when the cops showed up I had this moment of ‘oh, what’s going to happen here.'”
That’s when one of the officers did something she didn’t expect.
“As soon as I said he was autistic she was like, ‘oh, okay.’ She clearly, instantly got what was going on and she just said ‘how can I help?'”
Samuel says it was clear both officers had experience with special needs kids, and they did the only thing they could have to actually improved the situation: checking with the parent.
That’s because while her own son isn’t afraid of people intervening…
“Different kids respond different ways. I know for some parents the best way an officer could help would be by walking away, for others they would need the officer’s physical assistance. And in my case what I needed was for somebody to help me hold my son while I called my husband and just help me keep him safe.”
She says the officers’ calm, patient, quiet approach allowed her to call her husband and to calm herself down – something she says is key to keeping her son’s anxiety down and the situation from spiraling out of control.
Viral thank-you letter
But it wasn’t until she got home that she had time to reflect, which prompted her to write the open letter.
She posted a heartfelt message to Facebook explaining what had happened and how it had helped. In the few days since, it’s already been shared more than 500 times.
“It really seemed to strike a chord with people, I guess partly because I am in a lot of communities with special needs children, and a lot of them share those fears. So that made me realize that our experience had something to offer other people.”
But she says there was a practical element too: she wanted to thank the women, but had lost the card they gave her after the incident.
She’s since learned who the officers were, though hasn’t had a chance to thank them in person yet.
“Unbelievably enough [one of their names] was Karma.”
Samuel says in the wake of so much reporting on conflict with police in the U.S., she was motivated to share a positive story.
But she says more importantly, she wanted to highlight how a situation like hers can be resolved by officers with the training and sensitivity to recognize an emotional, medical situation and who are ready to ask questions first.
“And that I think is what we really need as parents of special needs kids, is officers who understand what different challenges look like.”