Advocates say N.J. police beating of intellectually disabled man points to need for more training

    A just-released video showing New Jersey state police officers beating an intellectually disabled young man offers some answers to the victim’s family — three years after the incident. Mental health advocates say it also points to a need for more police training focused on disabilities.

    The footage is taken from a distance but clearly shows an officer slam a man onto the ground, and punch him repeatedly. Two officers then drag the man to a patrol car, then slam his head into a tire.

    This graphic video was captured by a camera inside a state police car in May of 2009. It recently was obtained and made public by reporter Christopher Baxter of the Star-Ledger of Newark.

    The man being punched is James Bayliss of Warren County, who was 21 at the time. Bayliss and a friend were pulled over because officers were searching for burglary suspects.

    Officers say Bayliss did not follow orders and acted in a threatening fashion.

    Bayliss suffered severe brain injury in a car accident in 2005, and his family says if he appeared to be defiant, it was because he has trouble understanding instructions.

    The driver of the car tried to alert the officers that Bayliss has a disability due to brain injury.

    In the video, the driver can be heard stating that Bayliss was injured in a car accident.

    Advocates say the incident points to a desperate need for more awareness of behaviors associated with traumatic brain injury.

    “Cases like this are really eye-openers for us,” said Jon Kinsella of the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey.

    “Cognitive, behavior, and emotional changes are very common after a traumatic brain injury,” explained Kinsella.

    Mary Lynne Reynolds heads the Mental Health Association of Southwestern New Jersey and her organization has trained more than 900 New Jersey officers on how to better interact with those with mental health issues and disabilities. During trainings, officers learn how to recognize symptoms of mental illness and intellectual disabilities. They also learn how to communicate more effectively.

    “Basically, how to use the correct tone of voice so that it doesn’t exacerbate the situation, how to really de-escalate a potentially violent situation,” said Reynolds.

    Bayiss’ family filed a law suit last year. They say they repeatedly tried to contact authorities for details on what happened to their son. Since the video of the beating surfaced online, state police announced for the first time that two troopers involved in the incident used unreasonable force. They are still determining disciplinary action against the officers involved.

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