The Paulding County Sheriff’s Office has introduced decals that will alert officers if someone in the home or car is on the autism spectrum.
The goal of this decal is for it to be immediately recognizable, which will give first responders a few extra seconds to prepare themselves for their interaction with the occupants of the vehicle or home who may have autism.
Detective Tiffany Bennett came up with the idea in 2019 while she was participating in the annual Autism and De-escalation course through the Georgia Public Safety Training Center.
“I wanted to create a way for law enforcement officers to be able to easily identify individuals with autism,” Bennett said. “My idea was to create a decal that would be a visual cue so first responders would know that an autistic person either lives in a home or could be in the vehicle. The intent was to create a decal to grab attention but still be discreet in the sense that it doesn’t say “Autism”.”
According to Autism Speaks, because police are usually the first to respond to an emergency, it is critical that these officers have a working knowledge of autism, and the wide variety of behaviors people with autism can exhibit in emergency situations. As of Oct. 9, 2017, the Washington Post found that 768 people have been killed by law enforcement and one out of every four deaths involved a mental health disability.
Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council implemented the Governor’s Initiative Training program, which includes specific mandatory training for every law enforcement officer in Georgia. Some of the training includes de-escalation, autism awareness, use of force, community policing, cultural awareness, along with several other courses.
With the training that law enforcement officers go through combined with the visual cue of an autism decal, law enforcement officers could be more prepared for an encounter. There are different types of decals which highlight the different triggers for each person with autism such as Hyper-Sensitivity, Non-Verbal, Echolalia, etc.
“When first responders see these decals, they will be better prepared for the encounter which will help it go more smoothly,” the sheriff’s office said.
Law enforcement agencies interested in acquiring decals for their agencies may also reach out to Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about orders. Bennett asks $3/decal each for bulk/agency orders. Agencies may order all blank hands and may contact Bennett for specific words.
The decals are free to the public. Residents who would like a decal may contact Bennett directly at email@example.com or (770) 443-3015.