GLENDALE (CBSLA.com) — A training exercise was held in Glendale Monday to help officers better communicate with people with autism.
“This gives us another set of tools to use for specific situations,” Glendale Police Department Officer Thomas Garcia said.
Kate Movius created the specialized program for law enforcement as part of the Autism Speaks Safety Project.
“Autism is so tricky and complex, and it’s often very difficult to communicate with someone with Autism,” she said.
According to experts, people with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to encounter law enforcement than others.
Movius says because of their unique social skills often times a person with Autism can be misunderstood.
“One of the issues that perhaps could get a child with Autism in trouble is something called Echolalia,” Movius said. “So you can imagine in a situation with law enforcement they might say to the person, ‘I need you to put your hands up,’ and the person with Autism might say ‘I need you to put your hands up.’”
An unarmed man with Autism was shot and killed by Los Angeles Police Department officers in 2010 after he failed to respond to their commands.
“Awareness and training for these people who are first responders is so important because we don’t want it to escalate to something that can’t be controlled,” Autism Speaks executive director Matt Asner said.
Officers learned in the workshop to turn off sirens, keep animals away from the scene and simplify their language when responding to a call involving someone with Autism.
“To go into that situation with understanding can change everything about the outcome,” Movius said.