Research shows that persons with autism and other developmental disabilities are approximately seven times more likely to come into contact with law enforcement than the general population. The actions and/or non-responsiveness of people with autism and other special needs are almost always misinterpreted by untrained individuals. Inappropriate social responses and non-contextual emotional outbursts, commonly seen in people with autism and other developmental disabilities, can cause confusion at best and spark conflict in worst case scenarios. The inability to follow complex or even simple directions during an emergency or crisis situation can lead to serious injury or worse.
Officers with the Manchester Township and Lakehurst Borough Police Departments are trained to recognize persons who exhibit characteristics of autism and other developmental disabilities. In addition to the training that is provided during the police academy, officers receive in-service training throughout their career that focuses on awareness and methods to effectively interact with persons with special needs. Officers also receive up to date training focused on de-escalation techniques.
In 2019, every officer with each agency received a block of training called Autism Shield. The training was provided by POAC Autism Services. The goal of this training was to enhance the safety of officers and citizens. The training focused on: (a) making law enforcement officers and first response professionals aware of the condition of autism, its symptoms, and the characteristics commonly seen in individuals who are affected; (b) providing information to enhance better recognition of a person with autism and response methods for officers in field situations; (c) identifying public safety risks for people who have autism, predictable contacts, and 911 dispatches; (d) explaining the problems that a higher functioning person with autism may have in criminal justice situations; (e) and providing methods for law enforcement agencies to proactively work with individuals with autism, their families, and advocacy organizations and apply tolerance and public relations skills when doing so.
With the goal of better serving our communities while responding to calls involving individuals with special needs, the Manchester Township and the Lakehurst Borough Police Departments have established “Operation Insight”, a voluntary special needs information database. By knowing who in our community requires a special response and having that information readily available in our law enforcement computer databases, our officers will be better prepared to respond to calls for service with their needs in mind.
The purpose of “Operation Insight” is to collect emergency contact information as well as specific characteristics regarding individuals with special needs such as non-verbal, sensory, medical, likes and dislikes. Additionally, a photograph of the individual, if provided, will be attached to their file to help responding officers identify them. With this information, officers will be able to take a proactive approach in effectively and efficiently strategizing police contact with those who have special needs to ensure we provide the best service, utilize knowledge based de-escalation techniques, and continue to protect and serve our communities.
The Manchester Township and the Lakehurst Borough Police Departments recognize the importance of working together to better serve both communities. As such, completed “Operation Insight” forms will be shared with both police departments in the event officers respond for mutual aid. The information provided will be kept confidential. Completion of this form is entirely voluntary and there is no obligation to disclose medical information.
Residents of Manchester Township can locate the forms on the Manchester Township Police Department webpage by clicking here. Completed forms will automatically be sent to the Manchester Township Police Department upon clicking the submit button. Photographs can be returned to 1 Colonial Drive, Manchester, New Jersey or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Residents of Lakehurst Borough can locate the forms on the Lakehurst Borough Police Department webpage www.lakehurstpolice.org under the services tab. Completed forms, with or without a photograph, can be returned to 530 Union Avenue, Lakehurst, New Jersey or emailed to email@example.com.