“Baltimore, Md. (Feb. 1, 2024) – The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) and the Autism Society Baltimore-Chesapeake announce the development of the First Responder’s Communication Facilitator.

The BPD will be the first law enforcement agency in Maryland to provide this user-friendly communication booklet to its officers. The
Department will initially distribute 2,000 copies. The handout is designed to facilitate communications between BPD officers and non-speaking members of the community, including those on the autism spectrum. Without a means for clear communication, these individuals could be at high risk for negative interactions with law enforcement.

The organizations worked together to provide officers with a tangible, useful, functional tool to have on hand when responding to calls for service.

Successful officer interactions with persons in crisis help to build or restore community trust and improve the public’s perception of the Department.

“In these types of calls for service, it is a top priority for our officers to deescalate the situation by staying calm, minimizing distractions, decreasing outside noises, exhibiting patience and displaying genuine concern in helping the person in crisis,” said Major Derek Loeffler. “This tool will help them do that. In some cases, it may be the most direct path to a peaceful resolution.”

The communication board fits into a pocket, is made of durable material and is currently available in both English and Spanish. The BPD will train all current officers as part of their annual behavioral health training over the next five months and has produced a video for incoming and current officers.

“The idea for this emergency communication tool was inspired by the lived experiences of my students on the Autism Spectrum as well as the concerns their families have shared with me about their child’s future independent outings, interactions with first responders and handling of emergency situations,” said Mallory Cicchino, ESOL Teacher, Cockeysville Middle School. “Designed to replicate communication icons commonly used in school settings and generalized for community use, officers will now have access to a tool to support historically underrepresented groups facing a greater potential for negative interactions with law enforcement.”

The Autism Society’s mission is to create connections, empowering everyone in the Autism community with the resources needed to live
fully. Being able to open the lines of communication between our citizens and the police department serves that mission. To learn more about the Autism Society Baltimore-Chesapeake, an affiliate of the Autism Society of America, go here.

View the training video here.”

A portion of the funding for our Communication Facilitator for the Baltimore City Police Department was furnished by the Baltimore City Burger King restaurants. Thank you for helping us give back to our community in this immeasurable way!

Image Note: Communication Board images provided through Boardmaker