By Matthew Parriott
The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) conducted the first training session sponsored by the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy (TLETA). The training is designed to assist officers when they come into contact with people with disabilities.
Bruce Davis, PhD, Director of Behavioral and Psychological Services and Fredrick Zimmermann, J. D., Director of Protection from Harm, presented their training session to the spring conference of the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Officers’ Association (TLETOA) in Murfreesboro last week, which gathered officers from more than 60 law enforcement agencies across the state.
“We really see this as a great opportunity to benefit all Tennesseans with disabilities,” said DIDD Commissioner Debra K. Payne. “We want to reach out to our partners in law enforcement, strengthen those relationships and improve the lives of people with disabilities.” In Tennessee, as many as 132,000 people may have an intellectual disability.
“That number alone is surprising to a lot of people,” Davis said. “It accounts for more than 2% of the state’s population, so the probability that a law enforcement officer is going to encounter someone with an intellectual disability is high.”
The training materials include several guidelines that officers can use on a daily basis to help them make decisions under pressure. Among them are ways to identify an intellectual disability that might not be immediately visible and an encounter checklist that can guide an officer from start to finish.
The law enforcement training is the product of the department’s work to exit the Clover Bottom, et al. lawsuit. The Exit Plan requires DIDD to prepare informational material for law enforcement agencies, but this presentation and others in the future will go above and beyond the terms of the Exit Plan.
“In the Exit Plan, the parties agreed to the steps that were necessary to reach a settlement,” said Commissioner Payne. “But we also designed the steps to create positive changes that will have a lasting impact for all people with disabilities in Tennessee.”
Subsequent training sessions are planned with the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association (TSA) and the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police (TACP).