Interview by Natasha Gonzales
Article by Celinda De La Fuente

Bexar County Deputy Rodney Rangel, Autism and Special Needs Liaison, works to build a training program for law enforcement in regards to those with mental health issues, disabilities and special needs, or IDD (intellectual disabilities). Rangel has a son of nine years of age who is on the autism spectrum. Thus, his passion for this work is incredibly personal.

“I’m able to give that first hand experience to these police officers, not only just by the law enforcement role, but as a father having a child on the autism spectrum,” states Rangel.

The first training, which took place at Morgan’s Wonderland July 9, 2021, was open to families of those with IDD so law enforcement could be more aware and comfortable of individuals on the spectrum and other disabilities.

Rangel has also taken the initiative to flag addresses of those with IDD by creating a form “that entails that the individual is high functioning, low functioning, verbal, non-verbal,” whether the location includes surrounding bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, swimming pools and the like, surrounding stores, as well as other details which may lead officers to that particular individual if missing. The form “gives the officers a heads up that there is someone on the autism spectrum that is living at that address” which will assist officers in their approach regarding how to work with someone with IDD.

“Most of these law enforcement officers…they might just be getting on the job, and they’ve never had interaction with a person on the autism spectrum. Like I say all the time, it’s very difficult to see those identifiers and behaviors for somebody that is on the autism spectrum when it comes to law enforcement.”

Rangel himself has heard people say how they do not believe autism is real. Breaking the stigma which clouds the current perspective of people with Special Needs and other disabilities is work Rangel is willing to do in our community and beyond.

“I am trying to get to every officer that I can and change their perspective of individuals with autism and IDD….right now, I have the opportunity to train those officers and give them that knowledge that I have, that first hand to hand experience that I’ve experienced not only with my son, but in the jail, out here in the public.”

This is definitely a necessary step in the right direction.

You can contact Deputy Rangel if you would like your address flagged at: rr34090@bexar