Autism, special needs police training bill all but official

Mar 5, 2021, 8:32 AM | Updated: Feb 7, 2023, 2:59 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — One month after a KSL Investigation revealed critical training gaps for law enforcement have left people on the autism spectrum at risk – in recent years, teenagers with the disorder – a new law meant to better train police officers about special needs and invisible disabilities is on its way to the governor’s desk for his signature.

On Thursday, H.B. 334 passed out of the Senate. The bill requires autism and disability response training for all new police officers going through Utah’s POST Academy. It is expected to go into effect in 60 days, after Gov. Spencer Cox officially signs it into law.

RELATED STORY: Critical Gaps In Law Enforcement Training Leave Utahns With Mental Illness At Risk

The KSL Investigators began looking at the need for Crisis Intervention Team and autism spectrum disorder training over a year ago. After demanding change for so long, advocates for Utahns with special needs were thrilled to learn that the bill passed its final legislative hurdle.

“I’m ecstatic. I’m happy. I’m excited. I know that it’s going to make a difference in more than just my son’s life and other children, but all walks of people who have a disability that’s unseen, like autism. I’m just overjoyed,” Utahna Archuleta said.

In November 2019, three officers with the Woods Cross Police Department encountered Archuleta’s Autistic teenage boy, Remick, at the UTA Frontrunner station after he got into a fight with some of his classmates. Archuleta says the officers were too aggressive and didn’t know how to handle the teen’s disability.

The incident was captured on police body camera and UTA surveillance video.

Archuleta contacted the KSL Investigators with her story after another encounter between Utah police and a teenager with autism made national headlines.

RELATED STORY: SLCPD Body Camera Video Released In Shooting Of 13-Year-Old With Autism

In September 2020, Salt Lake City police shot 13-year-old Linden Cameron multiple times after his mother called 911 saying her son was in crisis. Linden was critically injured.

“In light of the things that have happened in in the public’s eye the last year or so with law enforcement and people with special needs, I think it’s finally starting to sink in. It’s unfortunate that it’s taken things like this, but I am just grateful that we have great people up there that can recognize that we need this change and that they’re making it happen,” Archuleta added.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, drafted the legislation.

“The goal of this bill is – we can’t change the past, but we hope it’ll be able to impact future outcomes,” Rep. Eliason explained. “I believe this bill absolutely has the potential to save lives and improve the

interaction with law enforcement and somebody who is dealing with an autism spectrum disorder or some other type of condition, including mental illness.”

The need for this additional training is becoming more apparent, as statistics show Utah is above the national average for people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Visit KSLInvestigates.com to submit your tip, so we can get working for you. You Ask. KSL Investigates.

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Autism, special needs police training bill all but official