MIAMI – Miami police officers received special training Tuesday specifically on how to interact safely with people with disabilities.
The training consisted of mock police scenarios with participants to know what to do if they pull over someone with disabilities or if a police officer needs to speak to someone with disabilities.
The training is a way to help officers and those with developmental disabilities better understand each other.
It's also a way to enhance awareness and communication between police officers and people with developmental disabilities in their community.
Campers at the Sandra DeLucca Developmental Center got to experience a mock police encounter with Miami police officers during the training.
"The officers will run their lights, sirens and they are going to imitate a natural situation within the community where they may need to interact with them," explained Nadia Arguelles-Goicoechea, of the Department of Parks and Recreation Disabilities Division.
The training is in conjunction with the Wallet Card Project, a way to help officers understand specific needs of those with disabilities.
"The card is used to quickly and succinctly let the police officers know that a person has a disability and some of the traits of their disability," said Debbie Dietz, executive director of the Disability Independence Group.
Last year's police-involved shooting in North Miami served an example of why more interaction is needed.
Charles Kinsey, a behavioral therapist for an autistic man, Arnaldo Rios, was shot in the leg after police received reports of a person with a gun.
It was later discovered that Rios was holding just a silver, toy truck.
"What it showed is what we are trying to do and have been doing is needed and valuable, and that the fear is real," Dietz said.
Participants also enjoyed interacting with police.
"They are nice. They are nice people. They are reactive," one camper, Nicholas Gulliksen, 19, said.
The goal is to get all police departments in South Florida educated on the Wallet Card Project.
Numerous cities already have officers trained throughout the country.
Below is a list of agencies in Florida that have received training in the Wallet Card Project:
- Coral Gables Police Department
- Miami-Dade County Police Department
- 50 States Security M-D Transit
- Kissimmee Police Department
- Miami Gardens Police Department
- Sunny Isles Beach Police Department
- City of Miami Police Department
- Clay County Sheriff's Office
- North Miami Beach Police Department
- Miami Beach Police Department
- North Miami Police Department
- Surfside Police Department
- Miami Springs Police Department
- Village of Pinecrest Police Department
- Homestead Police Department
- Miramar Police Department
- Margate Fire Rescue
- Hallandale Beach Police Department
- Wilton Manors Police Department
- Pinecrest Police Department
- Palm Bay Police Department