MARION COUNTY — Law enforcement officers in Marion County will soon have better means of communicating with people who are nonverbal or speech-challenged.
That's because the Autism Society of Indiana has donated "emergency communications" boards to the Marion County Sheriff's Office that are specifically designed to help police communicate with those individuals.
The nonprofit gave a grand total of 250 of those boards to the agency, which says it plans to display them in all department vehicles and in other places.
“We recognize the need for this type of assistance in order to bridge the gap between first responders and citizens of Marion County who struggle with communication,” Marion County Sheriff Kerry Forestal said in a written statement. “I would like to personally thank the Autism Society of Indiana for their donation and look forward to using this resource as yet another tool for our Deputies to employ when protecting the community.”
The boards will help police communicate with people who are nonverbal, have limited English skills, have autism or other disabilities or have mental health issues, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Sergeant Brian Hogue has two teenagers on the autism spectrum and says these boards provide peace of mind.
"A lot of people on the spectrum look just like you and me, but they will take anywhere between ten seconds to almost a full minute to respond to a question, so some people not knowing that might say he's trying to avoid my question," Hogue said. "It gives officers the chance to identify sooner [and] know how they need to go forward in a situation."
The department is also training police with a video showing how to use the boards.
The Autism Society of Indiana has also offered to give boards to every law enforcement and first responder agency across the state, according to the Sheriff's Office.