In the town of Moberly, Missouri, police have launched a voluntary autism directory to try and improve officers’ interactions with people on Autism spectrum. The personal information on the form includes basic information like the name and address, alongside “information about how the individual communicates, their dislikes/triggers, fears, pre-meltdown and meltdown behaviors, as well as calming strategies and emergency contact(s)”, according to a poster on the official City of Moberly website. According to the Ruderman Family Foundation, a third to a half of people killed by police are disabled, and this registry hopes to diminish this.
Unfinish3d Pieces, a charity group dedicated to raising awareness about autism based in Moberly, was thrilled when the Moberly Police Department wanted help consulting on this directory that could change the way police officers interact with individuals with autism. The directory was first thought of by a Moberly fire chief who suggested Moberly police speak with another department which had a similar directory in place. After looking over existing forms, Moberly police asked several groups in the area who deal with mental health to suggest changes to make it more expansive and detailed, such as adding sections about whether the person was a wanderer or may run away and details about sensory issues.
For the police department, the goal is to eliminate misperceptions of interactions with police and first responders and help to increase understanding. However, some have mixed feelings about the directory. Robyn Schlep, in an interview with the Columbia Missourian, references registries in World War II that were used by the government to discriminate, but mentions that she does not think something like this voluntary autism directory would be abused.
Alongside other training that teaches police officers about dealing with a large variety of people, this directory could help promote safe police interactions. Currently, it is unknown whether this kind of directory will be spreading to police departments in other parts of the country, or even internationally.