Good Cop, Autism-Educated Cop

Police Officers Educated about Autism

A common dialogue communities discuss is “good cop vs. bad cop,” but what about educated cop?

 In a recent trend to improve relations between the justice system and persons with disabilities, Salem-Winston NC is teaching their police officers to identify autistics and proceed accordingly in cases when they are involved. Many have noted problems in the past between officers and autistic individuals because their behavior comes off as anti-social and may be misinterpreted as uncooperative or suspicious.

 When an autistic person becomes involved in an emergency situation, it can be confusing for both them and the people around them. Such situations are already scary enough without the addition of intense flashing lights, loud sounds, and angry voices which can be particularly over-stimulating for people that are already sensory-overloaded.

 The Winston-Salem Police Department hopes to educate their staff so as to increase awareness and learn productive methods to work with people with autism. The event’s coordinator, Kim Shufran, stated: “We need to take the conversations out of the doctors office, clinics and psychiatrists office and bring them into the community. It’s time to have these group conversations instead of silos.”

 Efforts such as this have been particularly popular lately. Officers of the law believe that it is necessary for them to receive proper education in how to interact with persons with an array of disabilities for the sake of both respect and productivity.

Other attempts at improving the system recently include special identification cards to help officers understand the needs of autistic persons under stress. Learn more about this forward-thinking program on our Hear Our Voices blog: http://blog.hear-our-voices.org/2015/01/06/autism-id-cards-help-in-emergency-situations/.

Sara Power, Fordham University

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