November 13, 2018
Politics & Opinion
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Advocate, Educate, Accept, Love

Ron Bateman
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April 3, 2018

Throughout April, the Anne Arundel County Sheriff’s Office will participate in National Autism Awareness Month. Autism and Asperger syndrome have directly touched many members of our agency, and we stand together to educate ourselves and our community so that we may all be the best possible advocates on behalf of those affected. With one in 68 children being born with autism, it is likely that you or someone you know has also been diagnosed or affected.

I want to ensure you that my deputies have the best and most up-to-date training possible in situations involving a person who may have an intellectual or developmental disability. When put into a stressful situation, a person with autism may fear a person in uniform, be overly curious of police equipment, not respond to commands, engage in repetitive behavior, or have delayed speech. We want to be prepared and educated in these situations to insure the safety of the person and of law enforcement.

Last year, my deputies received mandated training for proper response to people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, which includes autism. The goal for this training was to teach deputies how to identify and communicate with people who have an intellectual or developmental disability in a safe and effective manner. My deputies are taught how to properly identify a person’s vulnerabilities. They discuss how these vulnerabilities may affect interaction with first responders, along with communication and de-escalation techniques and how to inform a victim, witness or suspect of recourses available to them. This training is required for all sworn personnel and includes training in a classroom setting, role-playing scenarios, and finishes with a written exam with a required minimum score to gauge their understanding of the material covered.

This training gave my staff a brilliant idea. It was no surprise to me that they felt they could do more and could make a greater impact. To say that I have the absolute best staff is an understatement! In February, one of my warrant clerks and one of my sergeants came to me with a fantastic idea; they felt that our agency could do more to raise awareness and help champion this worthy cause. My staff had come to me in the past with community service ideas for Special Olympics Torch Run, breast cancer awareness, No Shave November and helping the Chesapeake K-9 Fund with raising funds with underfunded K-9 units. So, in the spirit of keeping of giving back, check out our latest initiative.

We decided to print awesome T-shirts with our sheriff’s patch along with the signature autism puzzle piece, sell them to our staff and donate that profit to a worthy Anne Arundel County-based program to give back directly to our community!

Well, the effort to give back and spread awareness throughout our county was a huge success for the inaugural year. More than $800 has been raised for a foundation that financially supports families with children affected by autism within Anne Arundel County. That money was presented to the foundation on April 2, which is World Autism Awareness Day. I have authorized that every member of my agency, both civilian and sworn to wear a puzzle piece lapel pin and blue shirt in support of autism awareness. We have embraced the slogan: “Advocate. Educate. Accept. Love.”

So, how does a T-shirt or pin lapel raise awareness? That’s easy: Our deputies are out in the community every day. Our brightly colored shirts and colorful puzzle piece heart pins will be a conversation starter with our citizens. It will be the conversation starter to help advocate on behalf of our citizens with autism; it will be the start of my deputies helping to raise awareness and to spread the training and education they have received. We saw the success of pink shirts for breast cancer awareness and we heard from survivors how they appreciated our thoughts and support. Well, community involvement in the Sheriff’s Office is a priority 365 days a year. We know that to maintain trust, inspire confidence and invest in the community we have to expand our role past simply enforcing the law.

A special thanks to my sheriff’s deputies, operations administrative staff, dispatchers, cadets, and my staff’s families for buying more than 100 shirts and making this effort such a rousing success. You guys are the best!

Please remember: Advocate. Educate. Accept. Love.

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