SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The officer-involved shooting of a 13-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome last September has sparked changes in the Salt Lake City Police and Fire Departments with a big assist from a Utah Jazz player.
The shooting of Linden Cameron had an emotional impact on a lot of people, including Joe Ingles and his wife Renae who know all about the challenges of raising a son on the autism spectrum.
Ingles has been lighting it up for the Jazz since 2014. In 2016, Jacob and his twin sister Mila were born, and the Ingleses have been very open about their son’s condition.
“When Jacob was two, he was diagnosed with autism,” Renae said in a video posted to YouTube. “So just like so many other people, we know exactly what it feels like to have the confidence or to feel comfortable to go out into the big wide world and feel included.”
“Having an autistic son is very different,” Joe said in an NBA Instagram video. “The therapy, the hours, the patience, the structure of what they do every day is very different than a regular school student.”
So when they saw the story of an officer shooting Cameron while he was experiencing a mental health episode, the Ingles decided that the SLCPD could use some autism awareness training.
“It hit home pretty closely to Renae and I,” Joe said. “We have been very public about and not afraid to use his story to help others. We were sitting at home and it hit really hard. I think everyone across the world could use some of this training and understanding.”
Teaming with an organization named Kulture City, the Ingleses reached out to Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Police Chief Mike Brown, and Fire Chief Karl Lieb to see if they’d be willing to have first responders undergo sensory inclusive training. The response was an emphatic “yes.”
“All the police, fire, rescue, EMTs, 911 operators were trained on how to help those with sensory needs and invisible disabilities,” Joe said. “Renae and I and Kulture City are so proud to have collaborated with the mayor and the leadership of Salt Lake City to make the entire first responder department the first sensory inclusive certified first responder department in the entire world. The entire world.”
Recently, many Capital City first responders were issued sensory inclusive bags containing headphones, calming fidget toys, and special cards for non-verbal communication, all to help them serve some of the most vulnerable and misunderstood members of our community.
“It’s a start,” Joe said. “And we’ll surely have more that we want to do, so thank you to everyone who participated. Everyone who helped and set this up.”
In addition to this first of its kind program, the Ingleses have more reasons to celebrate this summer: Jacob and Mila’s fifth birthdays and possibly Utah’s first-ever NBA Championship.