Terri Matthews Advocates for Law Enforcement Training

“I was happy that Mr. Krasner was moving forward with the prosecution because often times when it’s the police force, no one goes after them,” Matthews told me afterward. “Nobody files charges. Nobody believes the autistic person.”
On today April 2nd, known as World Autism Day, Terri Matthews continues the push to change the conversation around autism and advocate for Law Enforcement to have proper training and education for those with disabilities.

Check out the Philly Inquirer’s interview below between Terri Matthews, CEO/Founder of Jaden’s Voice and Correspondent, Jenice Armstrong:

I was incensed when I heard that two off-duty Philly police officers had been charged with attacking a man with Asperger syndrome whom they suspected of having broken into a car.

It had me flashing back to an incident involving Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black male with autism who ended up dead after an ugly encounter with Colorado police in 2019.

As mad as I was, though, I was nowhere near as irate as Terri Matthews, the founder of Jaden’s Voice, which advocates for families with autistic children.

After the Society Hill resident watched video Thursday of Philly DA Larry Krasner detailing how the 27-year-old had been walking on Aug. 19 when the two off-duty officers allegedly accosted him, Matthews broke into tears.

She cried because, as an African American mother, the incident made her think of her son Jaden, who also is on the spectrum. Matthews keeps him close but worries about the time in the not-so-distant future when her 14-year-old becomes an adult and can’t be with her as much.

Terri Matthews and son, Jaden

How will he be treated if stopped by law enforcement? What if the police pull her over while driving and Jaden’s reaches for an officer’s shiny badge? That’s one of the reason why Matthews made a point of meeting with Krasner and members of his team a few times back in 2019.

So, I know it had to have been a proud moment for her on Thursday when Philly’s DA acknowledged her and Jaden’s Voice along with Autism Speaks, a national organization with a similar mission, during the news conference announcing the arrest of the two police officers.

Luckily for the alleged victim, that didn’t happen in this case.

The cops, who are brothers, had been off duty in August when they pursued the man with Asperger’s to the parking lot of a shopping center near Fairdale and Knights Roads where they allegedly roughed him up. During the encounter, the victim managed to call his mother, who used an app to track his location. When his father arrived, the cops are said to have claimed to be members of a neighborhood town watch.

“[Philadelphia Police] Internal Affairs found he had not been involved in breaking into cars,” Krasner said Thursday. “In fact, this 27-year-old young man has no criminal record. The impetus for this activity appears to be that weeks prior that someone broke into one of their cars, an act that was recorded on a Ring camera video that in no way confirms the notion that the man who was attacked had anything to do with that break-in. Obviously, this is completely unacceptable.”

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