In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between police and autistic people. Police officers need training to respond appropriately. When they do not, things get out of hand.
It was seven years ago at Lexington Christian Academy where activist and advocate Lydia Brown began writing the text for a bill that would provide police with training on autism and other developmental disabilities.
Like the people Brown advocates for, Brown, too, is autistic. Now a student at Northeastern Law School, Brown, the chairperson of a state council on disability, is urging the Legislature to pass bills on police and criminal justice training for working with people who have autism.
The bills in the House (H. 2098) and Senate (S. 1264) would institute police training on autism and other developmental disabilities to reduce harm to people interacting with law enforcement or prison staff. Police and corrections officers would learn basic information about autism and other disabilities and techniques to de-escalate conflict.
“This will provide a baseline education. We are not expecting police to become experts. We are expecting the many police who strive to do their best regardless of what ends up happening will have tools to do their best,” Brown said after testifying. A similar bill in the House (H. 1244) addresses training of law enforcement on ways to deal with individuals suffering from mental illness.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, would require police training be done by mental health practitioners, would also allow a police officer to take someone with a mental disability to a hospital instead of criminal prosecution.