Community Policing at It’s Best
On February 7, 2017 I made an appointment to see New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick J. Carroll to discuss a community outreach project for Autistic and other special needs children in New Rochelle, NY. Permission to meet with him was granted and I remember like yesterday walking into his office to request permission to place a custom made New Rochelle Police Autism Awareness Patch (magnet) on our patrol cars.
I showed him the prototype (which of course, he kept) and he instinctively gave his approval. I remember that day very well, but what I remember even more clearly was the walk back to my office and thinking to myself how great it would be for all agencies to create a similar patch and to display them on their vehicles starting on April 1st and to keep them on throughout the month of April in honor of autistic children, adults and their families. It was a campaign intended for Autism Awareness and Acceptance as well as autism training.
When I arrived back at my desk I called Jeff and Gary from the Cruisers Division (Mamaroneck, NY) and asked if they could potentially handle a high volume of orders from different agencies. Of course, they immediately said yes, and the rest is history.
On February 9, 2017 I created the New Rochelle Police Autism Patch Challenge Facebook page and challenged three local police departments to follow New Rochelle’s lead. Detective John Hines from the Village of Pelham Police Department responded first. Afterward, he challenged three more agencies, and then they challenged three more agencies and so on and so forth. It went, from New York to Texas.
On April 1, 2017 over 125 police, fire and EMT agencies from throughout Westchester County, New York, Texas, Florida, Utah, Kentucky Missouri, Maryland, United States Marshals, and the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary were displaying the same autism patch on their emergency vehicles.
On April 2, 2017 over 25 first responder agencies responded in force to the New Rochelle Police Department for a special roll call training. Following that a convoy of over 30 emergency vehicles left the department en-route to the William B. Ward Elementary School where my son Christopher (11 years old, nonverbal autistic), my daughter Gabriella, dozens of his classmates, other students, teachers and administrators were waiting. It was truly a remarkable experience for everyone, especially the kids and the first responders who were able to interact directly with special needs children. It was an amazing response from first responders. And what was even more encouraging was the command staff of these agencies understood the underlying need to participate.
Community policing and outreach is always needed. Moreover, it was a great motivator to participate. Yet as a member of law enforcement who is active in the autism community I have learned that many parents remain concerned that police, fire and EMTs do not have any or enough adequate training on how to respond and/or deescalate calls for service involving autistic children (and adults).
The patch challenge served many purposes, but the most important message communicated and understood by participating agencies was the need look inward and to determine if their agency had the necessary training and if not, implement or improve it.
I was not surprised at all when I learned that most agencies already had a special needs training program; but are the people they serve aware of this?
Every April is a good time to get that message to the community. Furthermore, I can’t think of a better way than to participate in the New Rochelle Police Autism Patch Challenge.
The support and messages of appreciation that we received from children, adults, teachers and law enforcement officials from throughout the country was overwhelming. As a result, I am confident your agency and community will benefit too.
Please visit and like the New Rochelle Police Autism Patch Challenge Facebook page to view photos from our event and to see which agencies participated.
Call to Action
Now, with all that said 2018 is upon us and April is fast approaching. I am now challenging the rest of law enforcement, fire and EMTs to continue what we started. Keep the challenge alive! Show the kids and families that we care, that we are aware of their concerns, and that we accept all people and serve them equally without hesitation.
On April 2, 2018 at 0900 hours I am asking all participating agencies to do something special at a local school to promote Autism Awareness and Acceptance and to share their events on the New Rochelle Police Autism Patch Challenge Facebook page.
If you do any fundraising in connection with autism, I strongly recommend donating locally to your Special Needs PTA or to a local autism charity which directly benefit those that need it most.
Thank you and stay safe out there!
Detective Christopher T. Greco, City of New Rochelle Police Department, PBA President. Detective Greco has been a police officer with the City of New Rochelle Police Department for twenty years. He served in the Patrol Services Division, Police and Community Together Unit, the Special Investigations Unit and is currently assigned to the General Investigations Unit.
Detective Greco is the recipient of numerous departmental awards including Investigator of the Year; Corporate Crime Investigator of the Year; Police Officer of the Year; Problem Solver of the Year, Police Commissioners Award; New York State Shields Hero of the Month Award; Journal News Honor Award; 11 Class “C” Citations; 4 Commendation Awards and was awarded Officer of the Month seven times.
Detective Greco implemented the New Rochelle Project Lifesaver Program, designed to track and locate lost special needs individuals. He is the President of the New Rochelle Police Association.
Detective Greco has a BA of Arts from Binghamton University, NY. He is married with two children, Christopher 11 and Gabriella 6. He is the founder and president of Christopher’s Voice – a non-profit charitable foundation for autistic children.
You can contact him at [email protected].