Barnegat Police Officers join the ranks of first responders who are especially equipped to respond to households with autistic residents. The officers have gone through the Autism Shield Program provided by the Parents of Autistic Children, also known as POAC.

Chief Art Drexler says a township resident with an autistic son actually told him about the

Barnegat Police Chief Art Drexler, Police Dept Web page

training. He says it's very helpful because they're encountering more children and adults that have some form of this spectrum disorder. He says "there have been situations that didn't turn out so good with police and autistic interactions so we kind of wand to prevent that. He adds that "it at least has the officer's thinking when they respond to a call and someone, be it a child or an adult, isn't doing the 'normal thing' they're going to maybe have that in the back of their mind that there maybe an issue here.

Drexler says they even went further and added a special alert in their computer database where households with autistic individuals can be automatically identified. "When officers respond, just like when we know there's a gun in the house, we red flag that so an officer knows going into a residence."

According to POAC, the program was created for the safety of autistic individuals to teach first responders how to prevent escalating behavior problems associated with the developmental disability.

Drexler says families who wish to be added to the police department's autism notification system should contact them at 609-698-5000.