Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo has criticized an autism awareness training proposal for law enforcement officers in the Florida Legislature as “feel-good legislation.”
DeLeo says he does not believe law-enforcement should be the first responders in mental health emergencies. He’d like to see mental health organizations take the lead instead. DeLeo says lawmakers are creating false expectations that officers will be fully prepared to respond in such a crisis.
“It’s very easy for the Legislature to say ‘Hey, we’ve addressed the issue because we said law enforcement’s got to take a four-hour class.’ That doesn’t fix the true issue," DeLeo says. "What it did it now creates an expectation that because our officers went to a four-hour class, it’s going to make it all better.”
DeLeo says officers don’t have the needed training to make split-second decisions about mental health conditions that may have overlapping symptoms. The autism awareness training bill has passed the House and now heads to the Senate floor.