Through our Power of Connection, we aim to bring together individuals and entities in law enforcement and the autism community to identify best practices in a variety of areas and encourage more law enforcement entities to adopt autism-friendly practices.
People with autism are reported to be seven times more likely to have police encounters than their typical peers.
Autistic individuals and their families need support
1 in 34 children are identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder in New Jersey. Autistic individuals often demonstrate impairments and/or differences in their social communication, sensory experiences, and other behavior:
- difficulty understanding spoken language, non-verbal cues, and vocal tone
- limited or no safety awareness
- intense focus on certain activities/topics
- insistence on specific routines and difficulty adapting to change
- extraneous movements such as rocking, pacing, flicking fingers, waving arms, or other repeated movements
These social communication, sensory experiences, and behavioral impairments and/or differences can unfortunately be misinterpreted by law enforcement which, when combined with stressful or emergency situations, cause heightened anxiety for all individuals involved.
Individuals in law enforcement need support
While local police departments are always making strides to improve their interactions through yearly training and engagement with various members of the community, many individuals in law enforcement have continued to express a desire for more information and resources on autism. Effective training, knowledge of autism-friendly resources, and positive relationships between autistic individuals, their families, and law enforcement are all important ways to support law enforcement.
The challenges faced by each community, both on their own and in combination, require thoughtful solutions that bring people together and acknowledge that there are numerous stakeholders involved. No one solution will be enough to support the needs of these two communities.
Autism New Jersey’s Law Enforcement Connection
Autism New Jersey is developing a multi-year, multi-phase initiative to address the needs of autistic individuals, their families, and law enforcement professionals.
Gather information and develop relationships with key stakeholders
|Law Enforcement Advisory Committee consisting of several law enforcement individuals with experience with autistic individuals has been developed.|
|Leadership Roundtable for law enforcement on October 18th preceding Autism New Jersey’s Annual Conference in Atlantic City. The purpose of this event is to provide a forum for law enforcement to network, share their autism-friendly practices, and learn from their colleagues. Topics will include autism training, special needs registries, driving-related issues, and working with families and group homes.|
|Department-specific meetings where Autism New Jersey regularly connects with local, county, and state law enforcement offices to share our plans. We welcome the opportunity to connect with even more offices to advance our common goals.|
|Two surveys have been developed to gather information on the experiences and perceptions of the autism and law enforcement communities.|
|Share your experiences with and perceptions of training, current practices, and interactions related to autistic individuals. *||Share your experiences and suggestions for effective interactions between autistic individuals and law enforcement.|
|*While this survey was designed with chiefs of police in mind, the participation of all law enforcement officers is welcomed.|