RIVERTON Utah (ABC4 News) – All 35 of Riverton’s sworn police officers have completed a new in-depth training on how to interact with individuals on the autism spectrum.
Training was completed in October and November.
The course was focused on how to understand and react to behaviors associated with individuals with autism. The department believes it will help in responding to calls for service that involve individuals on the autism spectrum.
“Our city seeks to generate positive citizen-officer interactions and innovative solutions in meeting the needs of our community,” said Mayor Trent Staggs. “Our department is an early mover in this area and I’m proud of our officers and grateful to have been able to connect them with this very important training opportunity that will benefit our amazing residents with autism.”
According to a press release from the City of Riverton, Police training on dealing with individuals with autism beyond Crisis Intervention Team standards has been limited. “Given this limitation, the new in-depth training has provided an enhanced framework and specific strategies that can be employed when officers interact with individuals with autism.”
“This new training has provided us with the tools and tactics to respond with understanding, deescalate uncomfortable situations and prevent the need to use force as we interact with individuals with autism,” said Riverton Chief of Police Don Hutson. “Being proactive about this training will, without question, prevent us from having to be reactionary in our approach should a challenging situation involving an individual with autism arise in the future.”
Topics the police officers studied were acclimation, communication, delayed response, dissociated speech, sensory overload, visuals, and much more. Natalie Castro of Pieces of Inspiration provided the training.
The release states: “Castro is an autism awareness advocate with years of experience providing training to law enforcement. The Riverton Police Department is the first department she has provided the training for in Utah.”
“Out of all the departments I have ever trained, the Riverton Police Department is the most progressive and interactive department,” said Castro. “Responding to the needs of autistic individuals with enhanced understanding and patience will allow RPD to be more inclusive of the broader community.”
Riverton police are also taking part in Project Safeguard. Project Safeguard is a partnership with other Salt Lake Valley law enforcement agencies and the community that allows law enforcement officers to access critical information before contacting an individual with disabilities, including autism and dementia.
If an officer knows this information beforehand, an officer can respond better and help more than confront.
Riverton Residents who would like to contribute to project safeguard can visit rivertonpd.org to complete the online form. Information submitted is kept private and only used in emergencies.