Ogden PD debuts Autism Awareness Enrollment program

Photo: Ogden City Police/Facebook

OGDEN, Utah, July 29, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — The Ogden Police Department has joined a handful of police agencies in Utah that are among the first to institute an Autism Awareness Enrollment program to help officers identify subjects with communication disabilities.

TheĀ  now-developing database of residents who are afflicted with problems along the autism spectrum will flag officers when they may be encountering those citizens, Ogden Police Chief Eric Young explained.

“There can be so many challenges in communicating with autistic individuals,” he said. “They can be so easily misunderstood.”

The program, announced July 15, is voluntary and was put together after meeting with the Clearfield Police Department, likely the first department north of Salt Lake County to develop an autism registry, Young said..

He’s aware of at least two departments in the Salt Lake Valley with such a database. Local autism awareness advocate Stacy Bernal was instrumental in setting up the program, the chief said.

She has an autistic son and administers the “Awesome Autistic Ogden” Facebook page, which assists the autistic and others in the “neurodiversity community” with social interaction challenges.

“She’s been a partner with us throughout,” Young said. “A great leader in this area, and she guided us through it.”

Enrollment in the registry can be done online via the city’s website OgdenCity.com, by clicking on the police department link and following the instructions. Young thinks that may be a first, as other departments require a visit to the department. Entries are screened by a lieutenant.

Anyone with worries about friends or family with some kind of disability challenge can register, Young said. “Anyone who feels there might be some benefit to the program is welcome to contact us.”

Young said the need was brought home to him after the 2020 shooting of a 13-year-old autistic youth by police in Salt Lake County after serious miscommunication problems. “I got a number of phone calls from people worried about their son or daughter, wondering what they could do, what could be done, to avoid those situations.”

In the past year, all of his 140-plus sworn officers have gone through the department’s autism awareness training, the chief said.


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