Incident In Salt Lake City Raises Questions About Crisis Training


When people call for an officer, they’re in their most vulnerable state. It is a time they no longer know what to do and they often call for someone who can help them assess the situation. But the trust and hope turned into a nightmare for a mother in Salt Lake City.


It was a grim incident for the mother of the boy who was shot by an officer during a time the child was having a mental break down. The mom was returning to work and her son had an episode because he was experiencing separation anxiety.  The young boy has a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.


The mom called 911 requesting for the crisis intervention officer to help pacify the situation. The Salt Lake City police officers who came were not specialists in crisis intervention. Authorities said the gunfire resulted because officers believed he made threats involving a weapon.


There should be adequate knowledge and training when dealing with crises involving people with disabilities.


1st Choice Family Services offers an EDS program that can help officers learn best practices when dealing with someone with a developmental disability during a crisis. EDS stands for Elite Direct Support and it is our program for our direct support professionals who undergo intensive training process involving instructor-based training, computer-based training and field practice. With this training, they are more equipped in the art of de-escalation and redirection to help people with developmental disabilities in a critical situation.



The act of de-escalation is something that needs to be developed. The idea is to speak slowly. Sit down and talk with the person in question and remain calm. The more agitated they are, the calmer the person on the other end needs to be. You need to assess the situation first before acting. Many people can be handled positively if the right steps are taken.


Officers who have the knowledge on how to handle people with disabilities could have handled the situation differently. A different approach could have been focusing on de-escalation and avoiding shouting or using sirens, which can be disorienting.  Those with developmental disabilities may already feel disoriented and cannot control their emotions so they need to be treated with care and patience.


That is why the EDS program is essential. This rigorous program requires participants to have a one on one coaching with the EDS Service Manager who can help them have a better understanding about how to handle delicate situations involving people with disabilities. And, the training can help save lives.