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Salt Lake City: New law requires autism training for police

May 15, 2021, KSL, Salt Lake City: Law now requires autism awareness training. Here's what Utah police will learn …New Utah law Utah lawmakers approved HB334 during this past legislative session, which deals with special needs training for law enforcers. "This bill requires peace officer training to include training on autism spectrum disorder and other mental illnesses," according to the bill. The law went into effect on May 5. In preparation for the bill's signing, at the quarterly Peace Officer Standards and Training Council meeting in March, it approved a motion that requires all new police cadets to receive three hours of autism education during their basic training, in addition to other mental health training that is already required. "This was a really good bill," council director Major Scott Stephenson said of HB334, while adding that the training is needed because officers are "dealing with individuals we just don't understand." Approximately 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with autism in Utah, and the state ranks third in the nation in states with autism prevalence, Smith said, "It really is a matter of when, not if" an officer will come in contact with a person with autism…. The effort to get legislators to change the law to require more autism training was already in motion when a Salt Lake police officer shot 13-year-old Linden Cameron on Sept. 4 as he ran from them in the area of 500 South and Navajo Street (1335 West). Linden had been acting out that day and his mother — who was exhausted and felt like she was out of options — called police asking for members of the Crisis Intervention Team to respond. Linden survived the shooting but is still recovering from physical and psychological injuries today. A decision by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office about whether the shooting was legally justified is still pending…. Officers 'hungry' for training "It's not rocket science. It really is just a different mindset because they're trained as officers to get in, get in there fast and take care of the situation. What we're telling them is totally opposite from all of that," she said. The training also includes putting officers in a difficult situation to give them a sense of what it's like when an autistic person tries to process information. Smith has officers attach pieces of steel wool to the back of their necks while a loud, annoying noise is played and people repeatedly yell at the officer who is then given a quiz and told he or she must complete it in one minute. Smith was offering her training course to police departments at no cost before HB334 passed. She said officers are "hungry" for the training. "I've been doing a lot of these, and they don't ever act like, 'Oh, I have to go to this,'" she said, using a begrudging voice. "They want to know. Nobody wants to fail. … They're glad to have the tools for a positive outcome."…


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