Watch CBS News

Modesto Police Department becomes first autism-certified police department in California

Modesto Police Department becomes first police department in the state to be autism-certified
Modesto Police Department becomes first police department in the state to be autism-certified 02:22

MODESTO - The Modesto Police Department has achieved a remarkable feature by becoming the first autism-certified police department in the state.

"We want to be able to show the community that we're spending their tax dollars in an effective way that's going to better serve them," Lt. Bottoms said.

You don't often hear about a police department certified in responding to calls for those on the spectrum.

That's because the Modesto Police Department is the first in the state.

"We are pretty proud of the fact that we're the first ones in California to be certified," Bottoms said. 

Modesto police recently made history by receiving recognition as a certified autism center, where 300 of their staff and officers are trained to better understand, help and respond to calls that include people with autism. 

The training is born out of experience. 

"One of the younger officers came to me and he handled a call awhile ago and he ran across a mother and a son, it was a teenage son, and this teenager had autism," Bottoms said. "He could have had better tools to deal with it and if we could get all our officers to understand what that child is going through or what the person with autism is going through, we could better serve their community."

"Any level of training will be a huge benefit for serving the community," said Veronica Tuss with Mind Institutes. 

Tuss said educating officers will help them spot the key signs of those with autism. 

"So kind of understanding those queues and knowing what to look out for can be really helpful and de-escalating the situation," Tuss said.

And what might agitate some who are on the spectrum?

"Also things that we don't necessarily consider like if you have your lights and sirens on that can be something that can trigger a sensory response," Tuss said. 

"Knowing that ahead of time, and recognizing those signs can we use our tools in a different way to de-escalate a situation or better communicate with that person," Bottoms said. 

The police department says they hope this will encourage other departments throughout the state to be certified.

And thanks their own officer for shedding light on the importance of serving not just the general public, but the community as a whole.

Just to put it in perspective, one in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism.

One in six people have sensory sensitivity according to the CDC, which highlights the growing need for specialized training and certification. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.