Do police need more training to recognize autistic individuals?
July 22, 2016
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The shooting of a Miami behavioral specialist by a police officer while trying to calm an autistic man points to a lack of training for police dealing with someone who is autistic, according to experts in the field. But efforts to increase police training have gone nowhere two years in a row.
This video of a police officer shouting for an autistic man to lay down fell on deaf ears. Autism expert Victoria Zepp says the man sitting had no idea what he was being asked to do.
“How important is it that police officers get additional training in recognizing someone who is on the spectrum?” we asked.
”It’s critical. It’s critical for every single community because the individuals in a community have to feel like they can trust their police department," says Zepp. "I mean I see a police officer and I thank them for their service, you know, and I also say, have you had any training in autism?”
The answer is usually no. Florida currently spends $67 a year on each officer for training and retraining.
Efforts to provide additional training for police to deal with autistic individuals has failed two years in a row, because of cost.
Lawmakers did pass a bill this past session that requires police to allow experts in the room when they are interviewing an autistic individual.
“I think what people need to know is that they’re aren’t good guys, bad guys in the process. it’s about education” says Advocate Zepp.
Sheriff Mike Wood says better training will help officers re-earn respect they appear to have lost.
“There are circumstances like that that aren’t necessarily with evil intent, but when you have a lack of training, a lack of preparation, these things occur.”
280,000 Floridians, or one in every 68 of us, shows up on the autism disorder spectrum.