Miami-Dade officers to receive training on autism


DORAL, Fla. – The Miami-Dade Police Department announced on Friday the University of Miami will be providing autism and sensory training sessions to every officer by 2023.

UM’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities will hold the three-day training with 120 officers at a time to include practical de-escalation techniques, police said.

Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said Miami-Dade commissioners passed a resolution last year that made the department training possible.

“Once you get a better understanding that makes that communication that much more effective,” Zabaleta said.

Bart Barta, a retired police commander with the Coral Gables Police Department, said he is very passionate about providing the training with UM-NSU CARD. He said it involves role-playing.

“We can avoid using unnecessary force and we can deescalate situations in the best manner possible,” Barta said.

Kent Schomber, who was diagnosed with autism and is a clerk for the UM-NSU CARD, is a co-instructor. He often shares his experiences during encounters with police officers who had him undergo sobriety tests.

“This is so people like me don’t have this problem ever again,” Schomber said.

The department also has a badge and a car for Autism Awareness Month. Last week, officers participated in the Autism Bike Ride in Doral to benefit the UM-NSU CARD.

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Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."