toro 050824SPRINGFIELD — To reduce the risk of unnecessary violent confrontations between law enforcement and people with autism, State Senator Natalie Toro introduced legislation requiring officers to go through autism-informed responses in their training.

“Having an encounter with law enforcement can be nerve-wracking for anyone, but for people with behavioral disabilities like autism, it can be even more confusing and anxiety-provoking,” said Toro (D-Chicago). “It is important for law enforcement to know how to best approach and engage with autistic individuals to minimize fear and actually have a productive conversation.”

While people with autism may be able to manage their communication differences or behavioral challenges with supports at school, work or in their daily lives, they may experience unique challenges when interacting with the police. Without proper training on how some people with autism communicate, law enforcement may interpret their behavior as being noncompliant with questioning or instructions. This has caused interactions between law enforcement and autistic individuals to escalate quickly, resulting in unnecessary use of force, trauma or death.

Law enforcement data suggests people with disabilities are seven times more likely to have encounters with the police, making their understanding of how to best approach interactions with autistic individuals essential. Senate Bill 3201 would require law enforcement to go through training on autism-informed responses, as well as best procedures and techniques when engaging with autistic individuals. The legislation requires all permanent and part-time law enforcement officers and correction officers to complete this training every two years. 

“Law enforcement are sworn to serve the public, but without proper training, they risk more harm than good coming out of an interaction with people with disabilities,” said Toro. “By mandating officers to take this training, this measure will reduce negative interactions between law enforcement and autistic individuals, and establish methods to hold police accountable should these interactions continue to be escalated or mishandled.”

Senate Bill 3201 passed the Senate Special Committee on Criminal Law and Public Safety on Wednesday. It now goes before the full Senate for further discussion.