Police forces from Pittsburgh,PA are now required to undergo training learning how to identify and correspond to a person diagnosed with autism. This was implemented to avoid confusion and misinterpretation by the police force.
Often times, individuals with autism have tendencies to repeat words, mimic actions, not respond or potentially flee. Police might misinterpret this as combative or wrongly label this person “as a threat to themselves.”
With the DVD titled, “Encountering People with Autism,” the city’s District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. says he hopes that officers can learn the characteristics and respond accordingly.
“Throughout the course of my administration, two of my goals have been to make sure that our local law enforcement has the best training possible, and to use this office as a community-based resource, rather than simply an office that reacts to situations,” Zappala said. “This project will help to forward both of those goals as well as strengthen the relationship between police departments and their communities.”
The events of this DVD were inspired by real life events; one of the issues of the featured is wandering. This was also a reoccurring issue in the New York City area with the disappearance of Avonte Oquendo and Michael Karwan.
The DVD is part of a bigger project. In March 2014, it will be distributed to over 100 police forces nationwide. For families of persons with autism in the Pittsburgh area, they will receive aid packets. These will include stickers for homes and vehicles, information on applying for grants from the DA’s office for its already existing autistic service K-9 project, and for its upcoming GPS tracking device program, as well as other information.
Officer Scott Bailey is spearheading this effort. His two sons are both diagnosed with autism.
“This is long overdue,” Officer Bailey said. “I’m not doing this for my boys but for the thousands of families that don’t have a voice. This is a step in the right direction.”
For more information on New York’s efforts to combat wandering, read here: http://www.icare4autism.org/news/2013/11/brooklyn-ink-interviews-hear-our-voices-founder-on-safety-and-security/