Autism New Jersey Welcomes Doreen Yanik As Law Enforcement Initiative Director

February 01, 2024

Autism New Jersey is pleased to announce that Doreen Yanik, Esq., has joined the organization to lead its Law Enforcement Initiative. Generously supported by a New Jersey State Bar Foundation grant, the initiative demonstrates Autism New Jersey’s commitment to bridging gaps between the law enforcement and autism communities, raising autism awareness within law enforcement, and promoting autism-friendly practices to be adopted statewide.

To this new role, Doreen brings 28 years of law enforcement experience and more than 32 years of legal experience. Doreen retired from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office where she served as a front-line assistant prosecutor and was promoted to numerous leadership positions within that Office, including as supervisor of the Child Abuse/Sex Crimes Unit, Trial Supervisor, Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor and First Assistant Prosecutor.

“Consistent with Autism New Jersey’s commitment to bringing deep expertise to create meaningful change on complex issues, we are thrilled that Doreen has joined our team to lead this initiative,” said Autism New Jersey Executive Director Dr. Suzanne Buchanan. She continued, “Doreen is uniquely capable of and positioned to achieve this initiative’s primary goal: to increase the safety of individuals with autism statewide through the adoption of autism-friendly practices.”

The initiative’s first phase prioritizes information gathering and relationship development, two areas in which Doreen excels. Doreen also has decades of relevant personal and professional experience. Having a family member with autism spectrum disorder and providing training to law enforcement officers on de-escalation techniques for individuals with autism gives Doreen first-hand experiences that adds incredible depth to every aspect of her work.

Doreen shared, “Anyone who knows me knows this position is the perfect opportunity for me to blend my personal and professional experiences to establish statewide coordination of autism-friendly law enforcement practices. I am extremely excited about this new role and look forward to connecting with municipal, county, and state leaders to make New Jersey a safer place for individuals with autism.”

Read more about Doreen’s background

Throughout her years of law enforcement experience, Doreen has coordinated various initiatives designed to bridge gaps between law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and underserved and vulnerable communities. Those initiatives include the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, the Mental Health Diversion Program, and a pre-legislation Veterans Diversion Program. Doreen served on Chief Justice Rabner’s Interbranch Advisory Committee on Mental Health Issues and the Union County Human Relations Commission and was appointed to the Union County Mental Health Board.

Her experience also includes 27 years of training both recruit and in-service law enforcement agencies in a variety of areas as a certified Methods of Instruction (MOI) instructor and Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) certified team member. A significant portion of that training included de-escalation techniques for law enforcement’s interaction with individuals with major mental health conditions and autism.

In her experience coordinating initiatives and programs, she is acutely aware of the need for all stakeholders to have a voice and be heard. Her motto is that success is grounded not only in awareness, but also engagement. One of her proudest accomplishments was introducing and coordinating statewide law enforcement trainings on safe and effective law enforcement interaction with the autism community in 2013 with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and 2014 with sponsorship from County Prosecutors’ Association of New Jersey (CPANJ), where nearly 1,000 police officers were trained statewide. She also was successful in adding autism training to the police recruit curriculum at the John Stamler Police Academy and coordinating local law enforcement and first responder in-service autism trainings. Expanding upon her prior experience, Doreen will work toward providing awareness and guidance to law enforcement agencies throughout the State, and through the Power of Connection, bring the law enforcement and autism communities together.

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