Law Enforcement Safety Seminar educates & unites Autism community

Richmond Police Chief Rick Edwards says it's vital for officers to understand signs of Autism, which was one of the goals of this event.
Published: Aug. 27, 2023 at 9:59 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 28, 2023 at 5:57 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On Sunday, the Richmond Police Department and the Autism Society of Central Virginia hosted the first Law Enforcement Safety Seminar.

At the event, parents, who have children on the Autism Spectrum, got to go through real-life situations in a safe and controlled environment.

Officers set up an unmarked car in the parking garage of the Richmond Police Department Training building and acted out what would happen during a routine traffic stop with parents and their teens.

The mock pedestrian stop consisted of an officer talking with the teenager one-on-one as if they were searching for someone and needed help. Parents were able to use virtual reality to get the perspective of law enforcement in the field.

One teenager participating, D’Mareo McEachern, said he enjoyed talking with police and learning the do’s and don’ts when interacting with officers.

“It was good and kind and polite,” D’Mareo said after going through the mock traffic stop.

This gave families and officers the opportunity to try and be comfortable around each other. Autism looks different for each individual, and sometimes, not being comfortable can push someone to have a meltdown.

“Our son, he’s a hugger, he loves to touch and hands but some of his friends are like, don’t touch me, so the spectrum is so broad and being very careful on how you approach a person because they could have a meltdown,” explained D’Mareo McEachern’s parents, Keith and Glenda.

Chief Rick Edwards, with RPD, told NBC12 it’s vital for officers to understand signs of Autism, which was one of the goals of this event.

“Some of the behaviors may look suspicious to an officer who doesn’t know, such as not making eye contact or walking away or not answering questions,” Chief Edwards explained.

The executive director for the Autism Society of Central VA, Ann Flippin, said those reactive behaviors aren’t intentional.

“None of this is malicious. It’s just because they’re in a panic and go into fight or flight mode,” Flippin said.

The McEacherns hope this seminar will open the eyes and hearts of the community.

“Not just awareness but acceptance... and inclusion,” Glenda said.

You can find out more about the Autism Society of Central Virginia here.