Sinclair Cares: Officers learn to interact with people with autism
Law enforcement officers are learning an important lesson.
It's part of mandated training aimed at giving officers the tools they need to deal with people with intellectual developmental disabilities because sometimes the outcome can be tragic.
"What we are trying to prevent is a situation where, because our deputies don't understand certain cues, it is perceived to be a threat when it's not a threat," said Lt. Mark Junkerman of the Harford County Sheriff's Office in Maryland.
Glenn, a 26-year-old man with autism, is a key player in role-playing training provided by Pathfinders for Autism.
"We teach a lot of de-escalation techniques. So, how they can slow things down and how they can help an individual that is in crisis. How they can help calm the individual down so that the entire situation is deescalated," said Shelly Allred of Pathfinders for Autism.
Through Glenn, officers can see how someone with autism may respond differently.
Officers learn how the actions of someone with autism can easily be misinterpreted.
"As their anxiety is going up and you are approaching, their hands are going in their pockets and we got ourselves a problem," instructor Drew Myers told the class.
Myers has a close connection with Glenn. He is Glenn's dad through adoption. Detective Janelle Myers is Glenn's mom.
For years, Janelle Myers dealt with the challenges of raising a child with autism, as a single mother. Then she met Drew.
"I am definitely very blessed," she said.
Janelle sees a unique opportunity as a police officer and as a mother.
"I want to know that I am actively involved in the training of the officers because I know how I want them to act," Janelle Myers said.
One in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder. The prevalence is even higher in boys.