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Broken Arrow woman with autism pushes for autism training with police

Posted at 5:59 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 12:16:49-04

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — An incident between a Bixby police officer and a 12-year-old with autism is prompting a Broken Arrow woman to take action.

The officer is pursuing charges of assault and battery against an officer and resisting arrest after an altercation outside a Bixby school last month.

Since then, Katie Lord started collecting feedback from individuals dealing with autism. Her question is: “If you could tell an emergency personnel anything to help them understand the disorder, what would it be?"

200 responses later and Lord is on her way to creating a lesson plan, which she will soon present to local departments.

"No loud noises, please don’t yell at me, please no sirens or lights or any of that,” Lord said. “I’ve gotten responses of ‘Yeah, we do have the training, but please come back.’”

And she will because she does not want a misunderstanding to go wrong like the one in Bixby.

Master sergeant Cory Sutton of the University of Oklahoma’s police department also heard about the altercation that happened on May 20.

“If she quote unquote "attacked" the officer, she probably did not realize or recognize what she was doing. That makes it really challenging for me to wrap my head around the fact that you can charge her with this,” he said.

Sutton has taught 100+ classes to more than 2,000 officers since 2011 about how to respond to autistic individuals.

“They just don’t comprehend the world like we, and by ‘we’ I mean neurotypicals, do. It can cause some really negative interactions with law enforcement.”

Oklahoma currently mandates two hours of mental health training for every full-time certified peace officer. Despite current efforts, advocates push for more.

Sutton was unsuccessful in getting his autism class mandated in the past, but he looks forward to working with legislators and advocates to get it pushed again in the 2022 legislative session.

Bixby Public Schools’ associate superintendent told 2 News they cannot release many details due to student confidentiality, only that the 12-year-old student walked off-campus. Staff called the police to assist in keeping her safe.

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