April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day
Amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Durham Police Department employees remain committed to public service and community outreach beyond the job. In observance of 2020 National Autism Awareness Month police employees have contributed over $8,112 to date to support the observance, and specifically the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC).
A number of DPD employees have loved ones who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), an incurable developmental disability. More than 150 officers are participating in the employee-driven beard amnesty component of the campaign to help raise funds. As part of the promotion, for a specified time participating officers are allowed to grow a neatly trimmed beard, an action that is ordinarily not permitted by dress code guidelines in the department’s General Orders.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day and April 1 marked the official start of the month-long national observance. DPD’s employee campaign, which began mid-March, surpassed its $1,000 goal by day three of fundraising. The community outreach project, approved by DPD administration in 2019, is also a timely morale booster as employees render essential public safety services during the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the first year DPD implemented its Operation Autism Awareness, Education and Fundraising campaign. However, the initiative is not the department’s first collaboration with the ASNC. In 2018 DPD and ASNC partnered to produce a first responder video to raise awareness of best practices for successfully engaging persons with autism. “Autism Awareness Training for First Responders: The Fifth Question” video debuted in April 2019.
In addition, the DPD Community Services Division has a specialized crisis intervention unit and co-facilitates a 40-hr. Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) course for police officers and other first responders. The week-long course teaches sensitivity training and de-escalation techniques to first responders to be able to more effectively serve various special populations including ASD diagnosed residents.
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