By Kim Vuong, PRC-Saltillo Blogger
I have been working on getting the police department in my city of Long Beach to have a community forum to discuss the training and protocols dealing with people with disabilities. Ever since I watched a video on how the Florida sheriff has trained with autistic people, I wanted to know more about how our local police were trained.
Autism Speaks, a Washington, DC-based organization that works to raise awareness of issues that affect people on the Autistic spectrum, recommends that law enforcement agencies should train officers, supervisors and other members of their forces to understand the behavioral symptoms and characteristics of someone with autism, and to learn techniques for responding to them.
This is important, because the police may be trained to respond in crisis situations in ways that may not always be the best way to interact with an autistic person. As Autism Speaks details on its website, Autismspeaks.org, people with autism may have delayed speech and language skills, and not respond to their names or to verbal commands. They may also have sensory perception issues and may be overwhelmed by the presence of police. The organization advises using some simple techniques to defuse problems, such as giving a person space, using simpler, concrete sentences, and allowing plenty of time for a person to respond. (For more information, go to Autsim Speaks
We recently had a tragic incident here in southern California. According to the Los Angeles Times, sheriff’s deputies responded to a disturbance at a home, and a 25-year-old man with autism and a hearing disability was shot by a deputy and seriously injured. Local activists and elected officials called for an independent investigation of the incident, which the department has depicted in a video press release as resulting from struggle between the young man and the deputies.
I would like to see police departments utilize teams that are specially trained to deal with people with disabilities such as autism. In the meantime, it’s important for us to find out more about how our local enforcement agencies handle situations like this. We need to ask questions and insist upon answers.
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