The Plano Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) established a program where CIT Officers currently perform home visits with persons on the autism spectrum and their families. In the future, we hope to expand this program to include individuals with other challenges. This effort is an attempt to mitigate the fear associated with some persons on the spectrum and contact with law enforcement. CIT Program Officers receive specialized training in responding to person with mental illness and special needs.
From our experience, interaction with uniformed law enforcement officers can invoke a fight or flight response from persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Families of individuals with ASD often have concerns about these contacts and the criminal justice system. In an effort to alleviate fears and form a positive relationship, Plano's CIT Officers have initiated a program where they will schedule and visit with persons on the spectrum and their families.
While these encounters may vary in nature, some occur during meltdowns. In addition, Officers are often the first responders involved when a child wanders away from home, school and other places. Many times these children will actively hide from the officers attempting to locate them.
These visits will be short introductions with an on-duty uniformed officer introducing themselves and giving information on the type of help they can offer the community. If appropriate, the CIT Officer will attempt to communicate in a simple manner using clear, short sentences that are easier to process and understand. These Officers respond in marked police vehicles and attempt to familiarize individuals having ASD with the vehicles as they can be very scary to some persons on the spectrum.
We believe that these short one-on-one visits in locations comfortable to the person on the spectrum can have more of an impact than those conducted in group settings. However, the Plano Police Department also have our Crime Prevention Unit and School Resource Unit that conduct school and public education programs.
If you are interested in finding out more about this program or setting up a CIT Officer visit please contact Sergeant A.D. Paul or Sergeant Jon Britton or call (972) 424-5678.