(Source: Free Press of Mankato, Le Sueur County News)
Minnesota police departments have added various disability accommodations this fall.
The St. James Police Department will be better prepared for serving the public after receiving a $155,000 federal grant that will allow the agency to purchase a training simulator. It will be the sole Greater Minnesota simulator available, After training its countywide team of 20, St. James will then offer training sessions to police officers and law enforcement agencies throughout Minnesota and northern Iowa. Only 45 law enforcement agencies in the country were awarded grants by the Department of Justice under the grant application.
“Police work and police training needs to evolve just like any other part of society,” said Chet Anderson, St. James Police Department assistant chief. “If you don’t evolve, you fall behind. In order for officers to meet the demands placed upon them, we as a field have to evolve in providing the skills necessary for our officers to be successful.”
The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Justice and is earmarked to purchase a simulator to enhance police officer training in de-escalation, autism awareness, and effectively communicating with the public, among other training topics. The simulator provides realistic and immersive training scenarios for police officers, Anderson said.
The training simulator has an extensive library, including training on use of force, autism awareness, mental health awareness and decision making. “All of the skills that officers need to be successful with their jobs are contained within the scenarios in the simulator,” Anderson said.
It’s expected that the simulator will be installed by the end of the year and will be housed in the St. James Police Department’s training room. Officers will undergo monthly training exercises.
The Le Sueur Police Department this fall ordered 100 autism awareness decals. Bearing the puzzle piece symbol for autism, the decal can be placed in the window of one’s home or vehicle to alert emergency responders that an occupant may have autism or special needs and may not respond well to verbal commands.
“It’s another tool that alerts us to that fact and provides us with more information so we can utilize some communication training that we have to help people that live with autism and keep the situation calm and least traumatizing to anyone we come into contact with,” said Le Sueur Police Chief Aaron Thieke.