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.
In response to the need for greater awareness, autistic individuals, autism resource centers (ARCs), other organizations that serve the spectrum community and police departments are working together to foster a deeper understanding of autism spectrum disorders among public safety and law enforcement personnel. Training is available through some of these ARCs, one goal of which is to provide additional tools for police officers to use in assessing a situation and whether an autistic individual may be involved.
The ARC of South Norfolk, Massachusetts' ALEC (Autism and Law Enforcement Education Coalition) Program is one such training program. The presenters for this program's classes are first responders with direct, personal knowledge of autism spectrum disorders through a family member. Their Autism 101 training class addresses the question "what is autism?". It covers the associated behaviors and characteristics, suggestions as to how officers should respond to these and crisis avoidance. The police officer training covers a real-life scenario in which a local store manager reports a teenager acting erratically, rocking, flapping her hands and echoing the clerk’s words. The questions that are raised include "is she on drugs?", "is she in trouble?" and "how can you determine if an autism spectrum disorder is in play?"
BE SAFE is a training curriculum and a movie intended to teach police and people on the autism spectrum about each other. One of BE SAFE's goals is to help people with autism and other learning differences acquire the skills necessary to safely interact with the police. Trainings involve interactive sessions between officers and autistic individuals, cultivating mutual understanding, discovery, greater patience, new strategies and new knowledge.