February 10, 2016

Sheriff's deputies in the City of Industry are taking part in a mental health training program that provides hands-on training with autistic teens. 

Wednesday was the fifth of six classes offered to the more than 200 sworn deputies, along with jailers and civilian personnel, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The class covered four hours of mental health awareness training, two hours of simulation training and two hours of autism awareness, presented by the group Autism Interaction Solutions. 

During training, deputies go through a series of simulations in a Milo Range training room. James Bickel, deputy sheriff for the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, said that there is an emphasis on de-escalation techniques so that deputies are able to take a step back and assess the situation.

“The deputies go through various scenarios on what it’s like to be in the body of an autistic person, and how they may react to different stimuli,” Bickel said.

Bickel mentioned that while there was a presentation specific to autism, training covered a wide breadth of mental health issues. For example, he mentioned one scenario where deputies were trained on what to do when confronted with a citizen contemplating suicide.

“This is something that’s on a lot of people’s minds right now, and I think this is the perfect opportunity for us to work with the city, and to have this sort of training,” Bickel said.

The two hours of training with Autism Interaction Solutions actually allows officers to interact with autistic teens and their families to hear about positive and negative experiences with law enforcement, according to a press release. 

Bickel said that the idea for a mental health training program was brought to the Industry Station by the City of Industry's city manager and councilwoman Cory Moss.

According to statistics from Industry Station, deputies made contact with 78 mentally impaired people in the first nine months of 2015. The station also reports that 86 percent of those contacts did not involve the use of force by deputies. 

He also said that so far, the training has received positive feedback from deputies during their debriefs.

“It’s just another way for us to be able to serve the public a lot better,” Bickel said.