Proposed training hopes to keep people with Autism safe from police

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Across the country, there have been a number of high-profile incidents where law enforcement officers don’t understand a person with Autism’s behavior and end up hurting that individual.

For example, a police officer in Arizona thought a teenager with Autism was on drugs when he was really just being himself. The officer ended up tasing the teen.

Autism advocates in New Mexico say that hasn’t happened in the Land of Enchantment and they want to keep it that way.

“We have some amazing advocates in the community who have worked on this for years and actually brought it forth to Councilor Davis,” said Sara Baca, the Executive Director of the New Mexico Autism Society.

Councilor Davis introduced a resolution to the rest of Albuquerque’s City Council that would require all Albuquerque police officers and firefighters to be trained on how to best identify individuals with Autism and then how to keep the situation from escalating.

“How to prevent a situation that doesn’t need to escalate that could be taken care of in a different manner with patience and understanding,” said Baca.

An online sample of the training curriculum called “Safe and Sound” gives examples of how first responders will be trained.

First responders will be taught to identify people with Autism if they “dart away unexpectedly” or are “unable to speak or speak with difficulty.”

First responders will also be taught to be patient and understanding when dealing with individuals with Autism.

“For the Autism community, it’s going to offer encouragement and a positive outlook that there is things that are being done to help prevent situations from being really bad,” said Baca.

Davis says he does not anticipate any pushback from other councilors on this resolution. He expects a full vote in early March.

If all goes according to plan, the training will begin this summer.

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