BUCKEYE, Ariz. (KSAZ) - A video of an altercation between an autistic teen and a Buckeye Police officer has gone viral, and since then, Buckeye Police has been working to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.
In the video, the officer mistook the teen's behavior as that of someone under the influence of drugs, which resulted in the altercation.
Besides officer training, Buckeye Police has been working for approximately the past six months on a 'citizen registry'.
The registry is completely voluntary, where individuals with special needs can enter their information into a database. Those who register will also be given a decal for their home or car, and a bracelet they can wear. That way, if they have an interaction with an officer, that officer will have a heads-up on how to handle a situation.
Don McWilliams, the Neighborhood Service Manager with Buckeye Police, developed the concept.
"It gives the citizens of Buckeye the opportunity, if they are a caregiver or legal guardian or parent, an opportunity, if they have someone that has special needs, to be able to come into the police department to register that special needs with the department," said McWilliams.
All that info will then go into a database.
"I think it's another tool in our belt, along with the training that our officers get continuously," said McWilliams. "This just helps prepare them, as they're being called out to whatever the call is, they can draw back on their training and think, 'OK, this is the situation I'm walking into, this is what I need to do'. I think this helps us, as a department, adapt and be ready for any and all situations."
The database is not just for autistic individuals, but for those with any type of developmental disability or disorder.
"I think that they kind of see what's coming down the road, and they want to alleviate problems before they start," said Melissa Van Hook, Co-Founder of the East Valley Autism Network.
Van Hook, who is also the mother of two sons with autism, said she believes this type of program has the potential to alleviate future issues.
"It's a safety issue," said Van Hook. "Everyone wants to go home safe at the end of the day. We want law enforcement to be safe. We want our loved one to be safe."
Buckeye Police will begin sign-ups for the registry later on in November. The registry is voluntary.