The Plano Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) established a program where CIT Officers currently perform home visits with persons living with Intellectual Developmental Disabilities and adolescents living with serious and persistent mental illness. This effort is an attempt to mitigate the fear associated with some persons on the spectrum and mental illness and contact with law enforcement. CIT Program Officers receive specialized training in responding to a person with mental illness and special needs.
From our experience, interaction with uniformed law enforcement officers can invoke a fight or flight response from persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and children with mental illness. Families of individuals with ASD and mental illness often have concerns about these contacts and the criminal justice system. In an effort to alleviate fears and form a positive relationship, Plano’s CIT Officers have initiated a program where they will schedule and visit with persons on the spectrum and children with mental illness and their families.
While these encounters may vary in nature, some occur during meltdowns. In addition, Officers are often the first responders involved when a child wanders away from home, school, and other places. Many times these children will actively hide from the officers attempting to locate them.
These visits will be short introductions with an on-duty uniformed officer introducing themselves and giving information on the type of help they can offer the community. If appropriate, the CIT Officer will attempt to communicate in a simple manner using clear, short sentences that are easier to process and understand. These Officers respond in marked police vehicles and attempt to familiarize individuals having ASD with the vehicles as they can be very scary to some persons on the spectrum.
We believe that these short one-on-one visits in locations comfortable to the person on the spectrum can have more of an impact than those conducted in group settings. However, the Plano Police Department also has Crime Prevention and School Resource personnel that conduct school and public education programs.
If you are interested in finding out more about this program or setting up a CIT Officer visit please contact Sergeant Charles Heasley or Nicole Bowers or by calling (972) 424-5678.