Monday, December 14, 2015

Autism and the police: St Paul Police Department Western District leads

Most of the autism meetings I attend have a largely white audience. Tonight’s ‘CARE Project Meeting’, hosted by the St Paul Police Department with help from the Autism Society of Minnesota, was different …

AUSM - Autism Society of Minnesota - CARE Project Meeting

Officer Robert Zink and the St. Paul Police Department will host an open meeting about its CARE Project (Cop Autism Response Education). Officer Zink and the department invite the community and other precincts to participate, learn more, and offer suggestions on the CARE Program.

Dec. 14, 2015 from 6:30-8 p.m.

St. Paul Police Department
389 Hamline Ave. N.
St. Paul, MN 55104

It was an impressive presentation to a diverse audience, including several who’ve had unhappy and sometimes well publicized problems with local police (transit police came up a few times). Despite that history the audience was supportive, seeking more action sooner rather than something different.

Officer Zink has two children on the autism spectrum, with the help of supportive Chief he’s been leading a police-community initiative to improve the police encounters with teens and adults on the spectrum. He’s been at this in for a few years, but now he’s morphed into a 1-man community service organization with a taser on the side. Obviously one man can’t do this alone; the SPPD is scrambling to scale up. That’s why they marketed this particular meeting..

It’s early days. They don’t yet have an informational handout to share with our local health systems. There’s a unofficial Facebook Page, otherwise communication is small scale - except for a recent newspaper article. They’re working to train local officers to manage escalations, understand meltdowns, and, in one case, manage large scary angry men with M&Ms (Officer Zink has an amusing story of running into a Walgreens, jumping to the front of a long line, and running off to a squad car with the candies. That was probably not a happy queue.)

There’s an optional registration program so, in theory, police called to a household because of a crisis, such as assault of a sibling or parent or self-harm, will know how to respond. Our family will be completing the contact form:

CARE contact form

The SPPD western division is setting up protocols for contact before 911 calls, including home call introductions. Less predictably, they’re setting up post-911 follow-up visits as well.

Bottom line: One of the most encouraging autism community developments in several years.

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