Photograph of Marian University Graduate and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Calming Autistic Child Goes Viral

by User Not Found | Jan 19, 2021

​Christina O'Connell | January 12, 2021 

In 2007, Richard El ’10 was recruited by Marian University to play football. RichardEl During his time with the football program, he became a student assistant, graduate assistant, and later a coach. While becoming a football coach was what he initially pursued, growing up, El always had an interest in law enforcement.

“Being a part of the football program, and under the leadership of Coach Ted Karras, I was able to develop and continue to develop leadership qualities that helped me to become the person I am today,” El said.

After being involved in coaching, El encountered an opportunity to join the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), where he now currently serves the Southeast District.

While serving the community, a picture of El went viral after a photo was snapped of him calming an autistic child, which El pointed out was an important part of the job that often gets overlooked.

“I was doing my everyday job and another officer had located a parent who stated that their child had runaway and he has autism,” El said. “The officer requested another officer in the area to come help look for the child. I was in the area, so I diverted off the run I was on to help look for the child, and I located him at Garfield Park on the south side of Indianapolis. I just sat with him, talked with him, and comforted him until we were able to reunite him with his parents. That’s similar to what all police officers would have done. In our job that’s what we do. A lot of times, our job is overshadowed by so many things that a lot of people don’t understand. Things like that are just within the everyday scope of our employment.”

In a Facebook post from the IMPD Southeast District, they recognized El’s relaxing demeanor, ability to act in an unknown situation, and compassion.

Being trained in crisis intervention, as most IMPD officers are, he knew the importance of having a calming presence, being patient, positive, and coming to the child’s eye level. This helped the child to calm down while waiting for his father to get there.

"Officers must be ready to respond to any situation because you never know what is going to happen. It could be anything from a sudden fight with a wanted violent felon during a traffic stop to helping in a situation where you’re calming a frightened autistic child.”

As a role model for children and young adults, El believes that police officers need to set a positive example by interacting and supporting the community.

“We have young kids that look up to us and aspire to be like us, so we have to lead by example,” El said. “We have to lead by positive example for not only the young kids, but the young adults who are trying to find their way. We have to get out into the community and make sure we’re being good stewards and represent our departments and families in a good way; lead by example.”

The documented act of service and kindness that El showed in the viral photo pointed out that responding to crime is not the only side of the job. Officers are also building relationships and responding to all needs of communities.

El believes some of the important skills he carries with him each day he gained while at Marian. “

I’ve taken a lot from what I’ve learned from Marian, and I’m applying that now to my everyday life as a law enforcement officer, a father, and a servant to the community,’’ El said. 

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