The Po Po

I love to watch old school reality shows. My most recent show? COPS. Yep. Here is a plug in for free Pluto TV my friends. They play COPS LIVE. I love looking at the 90s motifs, the big, clunky police cars and the uniforms. One thing always remains constant in the police world. Reading the criminals their rights. I am much older now then when Cops came out as one of the first Reality Shows. I now see the show through a different lens. The lens of one with an FASD.

I was recently sitting and watching the show, and taking notes in the margins of a scrap piece of paper. I am not saying the perpetrators all have an FASD, but what I saw was the protocol of the police and how certain aspects could be confusing and frustrating to those with an FASD, and could result in an altercation with the Po Po. Here are some nuggets I gathered:

  1. In every scenario, when a suspect is arrested, the officer recites Miranda Rights: “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” -That sounds straight forward to a neuro-typical brain, right? Many people with an FASD would be overwhelmed and in fight or flight mode, and may think that means do not speak AT ALL, no matter what. Don’t tell them my name, my age, or where I live. If they are asked, “Do you want water?” they may not answer. After all, they are just following directions. I get that protocol is protocol. This is just an obstacle that we can face.
  2. I watched a few shows where the officers talked about waiving rights. To this day I get confused as to what that means. It is not your everyday coffee talk. One with an FASD may not know that word, and maybe they think it means they will get to be released, no questions asked.
  3. One suspect was caught and asked if he had “anything on him.” Hmm…Abstract language my friend. On him? Our brains are very black and white, and while YES we MAY UNDERSTAND that lingo, there are those of us with brain damage that would think, “Of course I do! I have underwear, socks, shoes, pants and a shirt on me! What kind of question is that?” So we answer yes, and the barrage of questioning continues. The cop gets so irritated because they search you, and there are no drugs or weapons anywhere on you! Well of course not, but I have clothes on me, Man! In the episode I watched, the suspect was a 17 or 18 year old kid who was holding drugs in his mouth. Now, most likely he was hiding them from the police, but, for shits and giggles, let’s say his brain is literal. The drugs are not ON HIM, but INSIDE him.
  4. Multi step directions. Police officers are notorious for this, and rightfully so, they have a job to do. It is hard to change a way of thinking and doing one has been taught in schooling. “Get out of the car facing backward and walk toward me.” Some with an FASD brain would have gotten out of the car backwards, then turned around and walked facing forward to the officer. Who walks backwards? That is just silly, right? The officer says it because it is a safety concern. Oh, and don’t forget put your hands up. Some would forget that part and would be tackled to the ground, not understanding what they had done wrong. THEY HAD followed directions. They had not heard him asking to put their hands up. Or, “Get out of the vehicle with your hands up!” HOW IN THE WORLD ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO GET OUT OF THE CAR IF THEIR HANDS ARE UP? Many of our brains hear every 2nd or 3rd word. Think about that for a second.
  5. Loud Voices: I know police have to yell at suspects if they feel they may be in danger. I understand completely this is a necessity. I am just going to say it may cause a suspect with an FASD to react badly, such as covering his ears, or even running away from the noise. He isn’t running from the cops, but from the noise. Again, I know yelling is necessary for safety.

***I want my readers to know I understand police protocol is necessary for safety reasons. I am just giving my viewpoint on what could go awry when one with an FASD gets caught by the cops, and why things go sideways. I do think education of FASD and neurodivergent disorders could be extremely beneficial to law enforcement. I know protocols are slow to tweak, and there is usually push back. We have to try though. Change is always there, waiting in the wings. It just needs to be seen, acknowledged, and then action can begin.


$30,945.00: Includes the costs associated with juvenile and criminal justice per person with an FASD, per year. Due to how an FASD brain can struggle with lack of understanding cause and effect  and impulsivity, those with an FASD being involved in criminal activity is not uncommon.  (60% of teens and adults with FAS have been in the legal system and 35% incarcerated for a crime), 2021.

*This amount of money is staggering to say the least. It is probably a conservative number also. Think about those in the criminal justice system that have not been diagnosed?

-Those with an FASD are 19-40x more likely to be involved in the Criminal Justice Syestem (2022,

23-36% of those in the Criminal Justice System met FASD Criteria (2022,

60% of adults and adolescents with an FASD report contact with the legal system (2022,

As a society, we need to do better. We want to educate, but we need opportunities, and we need the public and the criminal justice system to listen. We can’t do it alone. We need supp

One response to “The Po Po”

  1. I remember Cops and America’s Most Wanted on Saturday nights at Fox when I was a teen who couldn’t go out.

    As a parent, I worry about the high risk of teens with FASD running in with the law. I agree with your assessment of how an interaction could be challenging for the individual with FASD and how it could be made worse by a police unaware of or not trained in FASD.

    Given the high prevalence and cost of those with FASD on the Justice system, we really need more training and awareness for police officers.


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