Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Department of Public Safety Hosts Three Sessions of Autism Response Training for Law Enforcement, First Responders

Oct 18, 2022

Last week, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety hosted three Helping Enhance Autism Response Training (HEART) sessions for law enforcement and first responder agencies. The purpose of the trainings is to help emergency responders learn best practices for interacting with individuals on the autism spectrum.

DPS Secretary Eddie M. Buffaloe, Jr., welcomed public safety professionals from first responder agencies across the state to the full-day events, which were held at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, the University of North Carolina in Greensboro and East Carolina University in Greenville. The trainings were led by national expert and author Dennis Debbaudt, who has over 25 years of experience conducting training for law enforcement. Debbaudt has presented to various agencies across the United States, including the Department of Homeland Security, New York City Police Department, Illinois Attorney General, and Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association.
“This training is especially valuable because an increasing number of individuals are diagnosed with autism,” said Buffaloe. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 44 children in this country are on the autism spectrum. The goal of the Helping Enhance Autism Response Training (HEART) program is to further safe contacts among law enforcement, first responders and individuals with autism.”

“As the parent of a son with autism, I understand the importance of this training and am excited to be part of this effort to bring autism safety training to our first responders and law enforcement professionals,” said Chief Deputy Secretary Casandra “San” Skinner Hoekstra, who is leading the HEART initiative for DPS. 

The trainings included topics such as common autism behaviors and characteristics, recognition and response tips, public safety and suspicious person scenarios, search and rescue situations, behavioral de-escalation techniques, and interview techniques for victim-witnesses and suspects with autism. 

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