By: Najla Alexander
Atlantic County officials announced in partnership with the Atlantic City Police Department and Atlantic County Special Services School District, has developed training for law enforcement to facilitate better outcomes when responding to situations in which the community member has special needs and/or mental health needs.Officials stated that the Recognition and Response Training is designed to help officers recognize the signs and behaviors of people with disabilities, with a high focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The training will provide tools and strategies for officers to prepare them better to respond safely and effectively, officials say.
According to officials, each training session will include a law enforcement representative and a Special Educator on the instructional team.
Officials said the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office is committed to supporting law enforcement agencies as well as community members when faced with challenging and unique situations involving people with varied needs.
Atlantic City Police Department Lieutenant Frank Timek says, "This Recognition and Response Training is uniform and aligned with State Guidelines on officers de-escalating without the use of force, and will bring a much-needed educational awareness in dealing with individuals with disabilities, especially in the area of Autism.""It will directly benefit our officers, their agencies, and the communities they serve moving forward in 2024."
Erin Lichtenwalner, Atlantic County Special Services School District Director of Instruction, Programs & Services, states, "The needs in our communities are rapidly growing and changing."
"The collaboration of law enforcement representatives and special educators for this training will better prepare our officers with the appropriate and necessary tools for handling potentially complex and serious situations involving people with disabilities."
Prosecutor William E Reynolds shared, "The need for collaboration between education and law enforcement is paramount. We need to educate each other on the issues that arise in protecting our greatest asset, our children, especially those with disabilities."
"This program will benefit officers, dispatchers, teachers, families, parents, and the children themselves. In conjunction with the ACPO Special Needs Registry, this program will be a model for the State of New Jersey."