The frequency and clustering of autism-related behaviors during encounters between the police and the autism community

Danielle Wallace, Jessica Herbert, Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick, Sarah E. Kabourek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: This paper intends to examine the behaviors autistic individuals display during police encounters, determine if there are differences in those behaviors by age and gender, then examine if any behaviors cluster or frequently co-occur. Design/methodology/approach: Using data from the Survey of Parents and Caregivers of Individuals with autism spectrum disorder and focusing on a subsample of respondents who report that their autistic loved one has had prior police contact, the authors examine the frequency and clustering of behaviors displayed by autistic individuals during police encounters. The authors use chi-square tests of independence to examine age and gender differences and latent class analysis to assess behavioral clustering. Findings: The findings show that many behaviors that autistic individuals display during police encounters are associated with social communication and interaction difficulties, such as failure to maintain eye contact and difficulty answering questions. Many of these overlap with police training on deception, compliance and passive resistance. Moreover, the authors find that there are age differences in two behaviors, fidgeting and not responding to one's name. Lastly, the authors find that many of these behaviors cluster in unexpected ways, adding a layer of complexity to encounters between the police and autistic individuals. Originality/value: Training police officers, autistic individuals and their loved ones on interactions with the police is critical for positive outcomes. Without details on what occurs inside a police encounter, constructing those trainings is difficult. While this study provides only a small glimpse into police encounters with the autistic community, it is a first step toward understanding these multifaceted interactions better.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-420
Number of pages18
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 24 2022


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • Police encounters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Public Administration
  • Law


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