QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. - Queen Creek Police officers are getting a new tool after an officer's recent encounter with a man who has special needs.
As a result of the encounter, all officers will start carrying sensory-friendly items to help people in a crisis.
Officer recounts encounter
We sat down with the officer involved in the incident to learn more about what happened.
"People were calling in, saying there was a man who was looking disoriented or in trouble," said Officer Rachel De La Toree.
Officer De La Toree has a son with special needs, so when she responded to this crisis call for a man with special needs, she knew just what to do.
"He was ‘stimming,’ which is something people on the autism spectrum do to calm themselves down," said Office De La Toree.
Officer De La Toree pulled out a calming strip, one of the items she uses for her son, to help calm the man down.
"They're small. They have like a sandpaper texture. They're really good for someone who has any type of anxiety who needs something to regulate that anxiety, as well as people that ware stimming with their fingers," said Officer De La Toree.
Encounter led to new equipment kit for Queen Creek Police
The calming strip worked, and since then, the Queen Creek Police Department decided to equip all officers with sensory items to help in a crisis.
"Really, the lightbulb went off," said Queen Creek Police Chief Randy Brice. "I myself have two children at are autistic, on the spectrum, and I have lots of different tools to help them through their day, and it didn't dawn on me that we could bring them into this environment."
The kit of sensory-friendly items include calming strips and several textured balls.
Ray Morris, an advocate for disability inclusion, has a son on the spectrum. He says these sensory items are crucial.
"It's very important. It's having that device, that equipment for that community, that culture. It's like if you go into a deaf community and you don't have a sign language interpreter, are you going to be able to communicate with them?" said Morris.