Deputies Teach Youth with Autism to Be Safe

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Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies and young adults with disabilities like autism get to know one another at a Be Safe Interactive Screening, an innovative community safety event that builds skills and trust.

"We are happy to reach out to young people with special needs so they know what to expect in encounters with deputies. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is proud to a part of this important work."

Concerns about problematic interactions between citizens and the police weigh heavily on the minds of people across the country, and the Conejo Valley Friendship Circle (CVFC) is doing something about it. They are helping teens and adults with special needs learn how to interact safely with local sheriff’s deputies.

On Wednesday June 3, CVFC hosted an innovative event called a Be Safe Interactive Screening for youth with autism and similar conditions and their families. Five deputies from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station played an integral role in the program, held at CVFC's headquarters in Agoura Hills. The audience watched scenes from Be Safe The Movie, a new safety film showing positive models of how to interact safely with police in different encounters. After each scene the deputies and young people practiced safety skills like asking for help and following instructions. Deputies explained the job they do and the equipment they use, which participants found fascinating.

Participants soon realized that a BE SAFE Interactive Screening does more than just teach essential safety skills to youth. The event brings local law enforcement officers and the disability community together to create relationships, improve mutual understanding, reduce risk and improve outcomes for everyone involved. Young people and their families get to know the officers who might be called out in an emergency. Officers get to know some of the people they serve and get a sense of their communication style, sensory issues, or other needs.

Deputy Dave Diestel who works on Juvenile Intervention Team with the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station was involved in organizing the Interactive Screening and said, "We are happy to partner with the Friendship Circle and reach out to young people with special needs so they know what to expect in emergency situations or encounters with deputies. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is proud to a part of this important work.”

Emily Iland, the event facilitator and creator of Be Safe The Movie, is keenly aware of the risk that young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and similar disabilities may face in emergency situations. She is the mother of a young man with ASD and a leader in the autism field. Having personally trained more than 4,000 police about autism, she knows that youth with special needs may be especially vulnerable in an encounter with law enforcement.

With more children being diagnosed with autism than ever before, and 50,000 children with autism turning 18 every year, Iland was concerned that there were no effective tools to teach youth with special needs what to do in different everyday situations with police. This inspired her to create Be Safe The Movie, a 60-minute film co-produced by Joey Travolta and his team at Inclusion Films. Be Safe is a unique safety tool that parents and teachers can use to help all young adults become more independent and safe in the community.

Iland brings Be Safe events to communities across the country, hosted by sponsors like the Friendship Circle. She encourages parents, teachers, community groups and police departments to actively take steps to ensure that all youth, especially those with disabilities, learn to be safe. After all, there is nothing more important than safety.

About Us: Be Safe the Movie uses video modeling to show what to do in different encounters with police. Be Safe was made by and for teens and adults with special needs but can help everyone learn to be safe when interacting with law enforcement. Closed captions, Spanish subtitles and additional teaching materials bring these lessons home to diverse learners.

For more information visit or contact Emily Iland at 661.347.8557. Media contact for press packet and images: Kyle Duffy 661.360.6882

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Be Safe the Movie
since: 04/2013
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