Wichita police, Sedgwick County sheriff announce Autism Awareness program, partnerships

The law enforcement tool was created as a part of a new autism awareness program.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 4:44 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Wichita Police Department and the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office on Friday announced a new program and community partnership intended to help officers better serve and communicate with people who may need a different approach from first responders on emergency calls.

The WPD and the sheriff’s office specifically announced its partnerships with Sedgwick County Communications, the Wichita Police and Fire Foundation, Heartspring and Scheels to develop an Autism Awareness program in Sedgwick County.

The WPD said Officer John Biagini, who works in the Exploited and Missing Child Unit proposed the program and “has done much of the leg work to get the program operational.”

“The goal of this program is to provide education and resources to Law Enforcement officers when engaging with people with autism in the field, as well as, providing opportunities for citizens to provide important information to Law Enforcement to help us respond in a more informed manner,” the WPD explained. “Officer Biagini also developed a prototype of a sensory kit to be deployed in patrol vehicles. These kits will be available to responders so they can provide them to children and citizens who need comfort on the scene of an emergency.”

The department said this is an opt-in program where citizens can complete a form identifying that they, or a family member, are a person with autism.

“The individual will be provided with stickers for their vehicle or their home to place in a location that first responders can see when they conduct a vehicle stop or respond to a call for service. Sedgwick County Emergency Communications is working with Law Enforcement to establish a notification process for these self-identified locations,” the WPD explained. “This will allow dispatchers to alert responding units that a location has a resident with autism, so that responding personnel may utilize tools and techniques to better serve that individual or family.”

The WPD said Scheels and the Wichita Police and Fire Foundation have partnered with the department to support the roll out of the sensory kits. Wichita police credit Heartspring for “being an essential partner” in developing the program.

“They have worked with WPD and SCSO to develop material including the enrollment form, stickers that will be provided to citizens, training support tools for officers, and communication cards. WPD and SCSO will continue to work with Heartspring on this program to ensure we are best meeting the needs of our citizens,” the WPD said.

Wichita police said its goal is to have the program fully operational by the end of fall.

“This program is a strong collaboration between local law enforcement, our citizens and private industry to help us better serve the entire community of Wichita and Sedgwick County,” the WPD said.