ELK GROVE (CBS13) — Kids with special needs got a close-up encounter with those who protect and serve at an open house on Wednesday night.
It was a chance for officers to have positive interactions with people like Cody Avampato.
“I like the police,” he said.
Cody has autism and his parents worry about what would happen if police ever stopped him, not knowing he had a disability.
“If he gets scared or panics, that can be misinterpreted,” his father Tony said.
There is also concern that people with intellectual disabilities can’t or won’t follow an officer’s instructions and that could lead to a violent incident.
“It’s really scary because God forbid if he’s put in that situation,” said his mother Diane.
It’s happened before, including here in Elk Grove where officers were called out for a burglary and ended up arresting and injuring a teen with autism who wandered into a neighbor’s home.
The teen wandered upstairs into a neighbor’s home in August of 2017. Police searching for what they thought was a burglary suspect found the teen and the officers couldn’t get him to comply with commands or to put his hands behind his back. A struggle ensued and the teen was bitten by a K-9.
The incident sparked calls for better training, and Elk Grove police are responding.
“Reality in 2018, there’s more people around us today that have a developmental disability than ever before, so it’s paramount that our officers are trained,” said Officer Jason Jimenez.
The department is launching a new program to help. Parents of kids with special needs are being asked to submit a family emergency plan that lists behaviors and medical needs.
“The dispatch will be alerted there’s a special need at the residence,” he said.
And info about the person’s disability immediately relayed to officer’s computers.
“The more information we have the better off we are going to be to handle the situation,” he added.
Special cops and kids becoming partners in a new way to work together.
All 140 officers within Elk Grove Police Department will also receive training on how to deal with special needs by the end of the month.
Contact the department to sign your loved one up for the program to allow the alert to work.