Police Conversations about Autism

By

Sergeant Tish Edmonds

Nationwide there have been negative interactions between the police department personnel and people diagnosed with autism. It is important for officers to receive training to be able to recognize people who are autistic and have effective strategies in mind prior to approaching them.  Officers want to have positive interactions but when they don’t have proper training, it can go bad.  Sarah Doyle (Program Director of the Autism Society Central Virginia) organized a panel discussion with law enforcement and the community to address this very issue.   City of Richmond Police Department Sergeant Tish Edmonds, Lt. Kylene Paranto of Chesterfield County Police and Lt. Cynthia Wood from Henrico County Police Department sat on the panel.  Attendees had the opportunity to ask each jurisdiction about how they respond to calls for service involving people on the Autism Spectrum.   Some of the topics covered were: traffic stops, family disturbances, mental health calls, signs a person may display if they are on the Autism Spectrum and how Law Enforcement should approach.  It was a much needed and productive conversation between the jurisdictions.  Through partnership with autistic associations, the officers can have much needed conversations and organize training from experts across all jurisdictions and turn the course around from potentially negative police encounter to a positive one.  

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