The Arc of Texas Provides Input on Education and Training for Peace Officers

The Arc of Texas Senior Specialist, Mental Health & Criminal Justice Kirk Noaker provided written testimony to the Texas House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety March 14, 2023.

Dear Chair Guillen, Vice Chair Johnson, and Committee members:

Thank you for your leadership in the 88th Texas Legislature. Before you today is House Bill 568 (Rep. Rhetta Bowers), which relates to the education and training for peace officers on interacting with persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The Arc of Texas is FOR this proposed legislation.

As a statewide membership organization, The Arc of Texas promotes, protects, and advocates for the human rights and self-determination of more than a half-million Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). In collaboration with 27 local chapters across the state, we work with Texans with IDD and their families to identify barriers to and solutions for quality community services and supports, access to civil rights and criminal justice, competitive integrated employment, and inclusive education. With their input in mind, The Arc of Texas respectfully submits the following written testimony in support of specialized training for peace officers on interacting with persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias.

Police Interactions with Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias

All too often, when a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) encounters a person with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias, a breakdown in communication may lead to unintended consequences. This is also true for people diagnosed with an Intellectual or Developmental Disability (IDD). Studies show that Alzheimer’s Disease impacts people with Down Syndrome at higher rates (50% of those over 60) than people without. As life expectancy rises, the cases of dementia will naturally increase as well. Not only will peace officer’s benefit from this proposed specialized training, but aging persons suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias will also benefit (significantly impacting the I.D.D. community).

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Alzheimer’s Disease (Dementia)

As mentioned above, individuals with Down Syndrome (an IDD) can develop Alzheimer’s at a rate four times higher due to genetic factors, but typically not other types of dementia. Individuals with IDD that’s not Down Syndrome may develop any kind of dementia. Common symptoms of dementia are memory loss, increased confusion, reduced concentration, personality or behavior changes, apathy and withdrawal or depression, and the loss of ability to do everyday tasks. It’s important to understand IDD and dementia because as the two intersect, it means that life significantly changes for the individual, their family, and direct support caregivers too. These changes can add complexities to law enforcement interactions as well.

Though HB 568 focuses on Alzheimer’s Disease and dementias, its impact will be felt by all disability communities. The Arc of Texas appreciates and supports all legislative efforts to increase awareness and training for Texas peace officers at basic and advanced levels of licensure by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Thank you for your consideration of this information and please do not hesitate to contact The Arc of Texas for additional information or if we can be of service.