“And this is the equipment we use for emergency dispatch,” one of the police officers explained.
Jessica’s eyes lit up as we explored the police vehicle. She is a 28 year old neurodiverse woman, and is one of the many attendees at our previous Community FRNDS event (September 24), which was in association with the Campbell Police Department.
“Oh!” Jessica said in awe, grinning. And I have to admit, I was pretty amazed, too. The Community FRNDS event brought neurodiverse individuals, allies, and the police department together to foster a loving community among all of us.
It all started off at the arts and crafts station, where neurodiverse attendees from all ages highlighted their artistic creativity with markers, crayons, and blank coloring pages. It was a calming activity for everyone, and at the same time, it was a space for them to socialize with others. As the neurodiverse individuals colored away, they expressed their creativity, and it was quite a relaxing way to kick off the event.
Afterwards, they headed over to the police vehicles and the fire engines, where they learned about the types of equipment that police officers and firefighters use. After completing all the activities, the last one was a Sherlock Homes game, where the individuals had missing letters for words related to police and safety that they had to fill out on a sheet of paper. In order to get clues for the missing letters, they had to go around asking different police officers. Even the individuals that dreaded talking to the police had a fun time talking to them through the game! Through all of these innovative activities, it was amazing to see the neurodiverse individuals and the police officers familiarize themselves with each other. Officer Leticia, a police officer in the Campbell PD, explained the importance of Community FRNDS event. “We can have our officers interact with the community and show [the neurodiverse individuals] that they are friendly … that way, when they need them in a time where there is an emergency, they’re not afraid to approach the police officers. They know that we are their friends, their allies.”
Officer Leticia was absolutely correct when she said this. Besides being a fun, enriching event, Community FRNDS also addresses a larger issue at hand: the misunderstandings between police officers and those that are neurodiverse. Neurodiverse individuals are often misunderstood by police officers, and vice versa. A devastating example of this was in 2019, when Kenneth French, a nonverbal autisic man, was automatically shot to death by a police officer at Costco because he was overwhelmed by the crowd and had an anxiety attack. He didn’t have a chance to explain his actions and thoughts because he was unable to communicate for himself.
That is why PRAGNYA’s FRNDs event exists: to help encourage a welcoming connection between police officers and neurodiverse individuals. As Chief Berg stated during his opening speech at the event, “This event is for our neurodiverse community to interact with our officers, see the equipment we use, and get to know us better, because we really are your friends and partners in this community.”
Kavita, the co-founder of PRAGNYA, summed up the goal of the event in the perfect words. “The whole goal is to be able to foster friendships and belonging, and that only happens when we … include each other in the community.” And truly, the Community FRNDs community did just that: create an unforgettable experience, bringing police officers and neurodiverse individuals together for the greater good.