In an effort to be inclusive of all residents, the Missouri City Police Department has obtained a new certification looking to be inclusive of individuals with autism.

In a nutshell

The Missouri City Police Department became the first law enforcement agency in Texas to obtain its attainment as a Certified Autism Center from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards on April 15, according to an April 29 news release.

Certified Autism Centers are organizations where at least 80% of their staff is highly trained, fully equipped and certified in the field of autism, according to the IBCCES website. Other entities in the Houston area are certified as well, including the Missouri City Parks and Recreation Department and LearningRx Katy, according to the website.

How we got here

According to the news release, all full-time personnel have completed a two-hour online training. Highlights include:
  • Autism understanding: education on characteristics and challenges faced by individuals with autism
  • Effective communication strategies: implementing communication styles that resonate with autistic individuals to reduce misunderstandings and promote positive police engagement
  • Safety and de-escalation techniques: specialized scenarios with focus on ensuring the safety of all involved individuals
Why it matters

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network shows one in every 36 children are on the autism spectrum. Police Chief Brandon Harris said he wanted to ensure officers are trained to recognize and assist individuals with autism by ensuring they are empathetic with sensory triggers that some community members may experience.

“We prioritize the needs of every individual we serve, striving to create a welcoming and accessible space for all,” he said in the news release. “Achieving certification as a Certified Autism Center reaffirms our commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive environment for individuals with autism in Missouri City.”

What’s next

The certification is good for two years, and each officer will have to undergo additional training for renewal, Harris said.