LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) -Local law enforcement officers are learning the best ways to interact with people who have Autism.
A Norman police officer said the disorder is on the rise, and is visiting with different departments across the state to offer some tips.
"Autism Spectrum Disorder and Law Enforcement" is a combination of power points and videos.
The officer teaching the course draws from his own experiences to help people better understand what they may run in to while on patrol.
Sgt. Corey Sutton is with the University of Oklahoma Police Department and felt compelled to start this training after learning that there is a need for it.
"A close personal friend of my wife and I has a child with Autism that’s had three horrible interactions with law enforcement. He’s non-verbal, he likes to get out and wonder, and that has caused some bad experiences with law enforcement,” said Sgt. Sutton.
Sergeant Sutton has been offering this training since 2011.
“As a law enforcement officer if I ask you or tell you to sit down, I except immediate response. That’s what we’re taught, that’s how we’re trained. These individuals on the spectrum are often not capable, it’s not that they don’t want to, they are just not capable of giving you that immediate response. What happens after that is we step up our response which can lead to getting injuries and bad problems with that and I’m trying to prevent that from happening," said Sgt. Sutton.
He said if a law enforcement officer recognizes someone with Autism, it’s important to stay calm.
“Look for different ways of thinking, how these guys are operating because they are going to perceive the world differently, they’re going to see the world differently, and it’s hard to tell sometimes if someone has Autism, you just have to pay attention for lack of a better word," said Sgt. Sutton.
Oklahoma Family Network sponsored the training, free of charge to departments.
Southwest Regional Coordinator Terri Kinder said there is a great need for the training in our area.
“I feel like a lot of our small rural law enforcement agencies are not prepared and have never had the training to deal with kids that are on the spectrum, or adults on the spectrum, and I’ve worked with Officer Corey Sutton before and he is a great trainer and does a great presentation,” said Kinder.
Michael Logan is the jail administrator in Tillman County and said this was his first time coming to a training like this.
He's looking forward to the next training, so he can send his staff.
“We come in contact with all different types of behaviors, but you never really know, or myself I never really pinpointed that this a behavior that could be happening among our inmate population. I think it’s a training that law enforcement may want to implement in their training program. It certainly opened up my eyes," said Logan.