Utah Co. Sisters Training Police For Response To Those With Autism

Apr 27, 2021, 8:19 PM

LEHI, Utah – Two sisters have been helping to change the way police officers respond to those with autism and other mental disabilities, and they’ve been doing it one police department at a time.

For 29-year-old Natalie Castro, it all started when she wanted to help a friend who is an officer understand how to interact with someone who has autism. Natalie’s own sister, 27-year-old Angela, has autism.

Castro has been using her platform as Ms. Utah County to get the message out there.

“Being able to educate officers on (how to work with people with autism) is so important to have more positive interactions,” Natalie said. “One of the reasons it’s so critical for law enforcement to get trained on autism is because we have such a high number of individuals with autism here in Utah. The more numbers increase, the more it’s going to be important for our officers to engage with individuals like this.”

Natalie’s game plan, knowledge and enthusiasm has led her and her sister to help train nine police departments across the Wasatch Front. Some of those include, Herriman, Saratoga Springs, Riverton and Bluffdale. The latest one was the Lehi Police Department, which has nearly 60 officers.

“This kind of training is critical for law enforcement,” said Lehi police Lt. Kenny Rose. “It’s helped our officers gain an understanding of the thought process with someone who may be autistic or has another condition.”

Department officials hoped to avoid tragic situations that have occurred in Utah with officers dealing with those with autism.  

“Tragic interactions with those officers and people with mental illness,” said Lt. Rose. “Our goal is to avoid anything like that from occurring here.”

The department has also been handing out window clings to families who have loved ones with autism. If officers ever go to the house or pull a car over, they can be aware of the situation.

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Utah Co. Sisters Training Police For Response To Those With Autism