As a police officer and parent, Thompson knows all too well how badly interactions between autistic people and law enforcement can go. From beatings and violent arrests to deadly shootings, police use of force against autistic people is not uncommon.
As violent encounters between police and autistic people continue to make headlines, many states and police departments have added training on how to interact with people on the spectrum to their police-education roster. Better training, some say, offers one solution to the ongoing problem of police force being used against autistic people, particularly autistic people of color.
But what constitutes effective training is difficult to establish. There is scant research on how well various kinds of training programs work, and poor trainings can do more harm than good, experts say. Some research suggests that training makes officers more confident that they understand autism, but no less likely to use force.
Compounding the problem is the fact that few police departments track officers’ behavior to see whether autism education makes a difference.
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