David Whalen, director of Niagara University’s First Responders Disability Awareness Training program, speaks at a news conference announcing newly expanded diversity sensitivity training that will be offered to police recruits and established police officers in Suffolk County.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy D. Sini held a press conference Sept. 28 at Suffolk County Police Headquarters in Yaphank to announce newly expanded diversity sensitivity training that will be offered to police recruits and established police officers.

Historically, recruits would receive two hours of disability awareness training covering four areas of mental disabilities. Starting with the current class of police recruits, the police academy will adopt the Niagara University First Responders Disability Awareness Training, which features eight hours of instruction as well as an increase in the number of topics discussed. The new curriculum will cover a dozen areas of disabilities including ADHD, mental health, Tourette syndrome, learning disabilities, visual impairment, hearing impairment, physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, Epilepsy and seizures, Autism spectrum disorders, traumatic brain injuries and dementia/Alzheimer’s. Recruits will also receive education on victimization and person-first language.

According to the United States Department of Justice, persons with mental deficiencies and disabilities are 12 times more likely to be the victims of robbery than the general population and are between four and 10 times more likely to be the target of criminal activity.

Niagara University’s First Responders Disability Awareness Training program is customized for each first responder discipline – emergency management, firefighters, 911 operators/dispatchers, emergency medical services (EMS), and law enforcement. Created in cooperation with all major first responder associations, councils and state offices, the training is designed to give first responders the knowledge necessary to best serve and respond to individuals with disabilities.

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