Advocates pushing for police officers to be trained on dealing with those on autism spectrum

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (WWLP) – People on the autism spectrum often look the same as you and me, but they react very differently in high-stress situations, like run-ins with the law.

During a Statehouse hearing Thursday, parents and advocates told stories about their loved ones who have been diagnosed with autism.

They emphasized that even though they react to situations differently than most people, they don’t mean to cause harm.

“He would not intentionally be noncompliant, he likes to follow rules, but if someone yells at him or speaks in a strict manner with him, he would get very anxious and overreact,” Ilyse Levine-Kanji said about her son with autism.

The group of advocates want police officers to receive training to recognize the behavior of people with autism, so they know how to handle them in a safe and calm manner.

“Police are trained really to do the opposite of what we need them to do when they approach a person with autism,” Maura Sullivan said.

In some situations, officers use loud voices and cruiser sirens which can trigger a person with autism.

With this bill, advocates hope to teach police officers the best way to approach someone with autism to prevent another deadly encounter from taking place.

The public safety committee is considering the bill now, and with more than 100 co-sponsors civil rights advocates and concern parents hope to see it become law this session.

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