Riverton City is proud to announce that all 35 sworn officers in the Riverton Police Department have completed in-depth training on how to interact with individuals with autism. Training was completed in a series of sessions conducted in October and November. The training, focused on how to understand and react to behaviors associated with individuals with autism, has enhanced the department’s ability to respond 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.”
Police training on how to interact with individuals with autism is somewhat limited beyond what is included in standard CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) training and certification. 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.”
Training topics included items such as: acclimation, communication, delayed response, dissociated speech, sensory overload, visuals, and much more. The in-service training was provided by Natalie Castro of Pieces of Inspiration. 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.”
In addition to the new training, the Riverton Police Department is also a participant 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 prior to contacting an individual with disabilities, including individuals with autism or dementia. Knowing that information can often allow an officer to respond in the most effective way possible. Those interested in submitting information to Project Safeguard can visit rivertonpd.org to complete the online form. Submitted information is kept private and only used in emergency situations.