KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) — According to The Ruderman Family Foundation, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are much more likely to have encounters with police and first responders, yet are also more likely to have communication difficulties that can lead to misunderstandings.
On Wednesday, deputies with the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office participated in training designed to help bridge that communication gap.
It’s all part of the National Down Syndrome Society’s national disability training initiative. Wednesday’s day long training was presented by Putnam County resident, Steve Slack.
“I have three kids, my oldest daughter, Sophie, has down syndrome. And I have twin boys, and one of sons, Samuel, has autism. So I do it for them,” explained Slack.
Slack was awarded the “Champion of Change” award from the NDSS in 2018. He’s traveled across the country presenting trainings and seminars to local law enforcement agencies from the Mountain State, to New York, and Pennsylvania.
“According to the Ruderman family foundation, 50 % of people killed in police encounters has some sort of developmental, intellectual, or mental disability. Our goal, we want to lower that statistic,” added Slack.
Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford said he’s thankful his deputies are getting new tools and resources to help them better communicate with the people they serve.
“At the end of the day, our goal is to protect everyone. Better communication is vital to ensuring we keep everyone safe.”