Outstanding officer, John Hattaway

Dec 18, 2018 - 8:58 am

I am writing to you today because I want to make you both aware that there is an outstanding officer in your division that I believe is worthy of recognition. His name is Officer John Hattaway, and on Saturday, November 10, 2018 he was the responding officer when I called in distress, searching for my 14 year-old son, who has autism and who had run away. He was behaving erratically that morning and I could see his level of agitation was escalating. I convinced him to get in the car with me and we drove to Travis County Integral Care but he became afraid after we got there and ran away. He called the police (something he liked to do) to tell them he was scared and wanted to go home. The officers who responded convinced him to get back in the car with me so that we could go and get an evaluation at Austin Oaks Hospital. The drive to Austin Oaks was difficult, as he was threatening to hurt himself while screaming at me and banging his head on the window. As soon as I parked the car at Austin Oaks, he opened the door and ran. I searched for him for close to an hour before calling Austin Police and requesting a mental health officer to come and please help me. I had just found him hiding in a fenced garbage area when Officer Hattaway arrived. Officer Hattaway asked to speak to him alone, and after about 15-20 minutes he came and spoke to me. He was calm in his delivery, something I needed after the last few hours of fear, threatening behavior and screaming. He explained to me that he had admitted he had been thinking about hurting himself and that he was now required to take him to a hospital for an evaluation. We had never been in a situation like this and I had a lot of questions which Officer Hattaway patiently answered. He shared that he used to work as a substitute teacher, and I could see for myself that he understood how to talk to kids. My son was more relaxed sitting in the back of Officer Hattaway's cruiser than he had been all day. After I determined that we should go to Dell Children's Hospital instead of staying at Austin Oaks, Officer Hattaway offered to take him and said, "I get paid the same whether I'm chasing bad guys or driving in Austin traffic." I followed him to Dell Children's Hospital and so appreciated that Officer Hattaway walked him in and got him situated in a room and with a nurse while I was checking in. It seemed like once Officer Hattaway arrived on the scene that day, he calmly assessed the situation, took control, helped me feel safe, listened to my son and earned his trust. Later, my son shared that they were talking about "school and stuff" on the ride to the hospital. I am so very thankful that it was Officer Hattaway who showed up that day. After a morning of crisis and chaos, we both feel blessed that it was he who answered the call. As a mother of a child with a disability, a child who happens to be 6 feet tall and weigh 240 pounds, I am always afraid that my son's words and actions will be misinterpreted and he will face harsh treatment and punishment. I'm thankful to live in Austin where we have so many officers who have received specialized training in mental health issues and can better understand the IDD community to which we belong.