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  • Writer's picturePaul Manke

Doggett Supports Training for Police on Autism

A resolution to develop training on how law enforcement can deal better with those with autism was approved by the Tennessee Legislature in its session that ended in June. The resolution was sponsored in the State House of Representatives by 70th District State Rep. Clay Doggett, R-Pulaski, who credits his experience as a former Giles County Sheriff’s deputy with helping give him the idea to propose the training. By a 93-0 vote, the resolution passed the state house and went to the senate. The resolution is expected to have a minimal financial impact, according to information from the Fiscal Review Committee. Course work at the state law enforcement training academy would be developed to help officers interact with adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Tennessee’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission will develop appropriate training. One in 59 young people are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Often, when law enforcement answers a call involving adults with autism or intellectual disabilities, their behavior may be misinterpreted as dangerous or criminal, Doggett said. People with autism sometimes have difficulty following verbal commands, responding to questions or reading body language of others, he said. Doggett’s district includes Giles and part of Lawrence counties. Two more bills dealing with restitution also passed in the last legislative session. Doggett had a hand in them, which, in general, move restituion from the last to the first item paid as part of a judgment to restore a loss. In criminal cases, it may be a penalty and may require return of stolen goods or payment to the victim for harm caused. Other legislation either sponsored or cosponsored by Doggett include: • Issuance of emergency license plates to emergency medical responders. • Training, which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide suicide prevention to employees. • Requiring TennCare to reimburse an ambulance service that provides a covered service at a rate not less than 67.5 percent of the federal medicare program’s allowable charge for participating providers; requires the bureau to seek an intergovernmental transfer of funds for increasing the rate of reimbursement to ambulance services that provide covered services at a rate greater than 67.5 percent of the federal medicare program’s allowable charge. COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, disrupted this year’s session of the State Legislature, which began in January, was recessed in March and then reconverned briefly in June. A special session then was convened Aug. 10, which gave Doggett the chance to serve on another committee, other than those he already serves on, “I was named to the special committee on finance,” he said. Extra money also had been set aside for dealing with the virus, Doggett said. Other committees included: proposed legislation on COVID-19 lawsuit protections for businesses and schools, a telehealth medicine bill and efforts to restrict protests at the Capitol building. One bill provides reasonable liability protections against frivilous COVID-19 lawsuits on businesses, proprietors, non-profits, health care providers, schools, day care providers, religious organizations and other entities. Another bill required insurance coverage of telehealth and telemedicine services, giving patients the option to receive medical care at home and prevent the spread of the virus. Because of violent and destructive riots, the General Assembly passed legislation during the special session increasing penalties for those who engage in violent and lawless riots, vandalism, assault or criminal trespassing. The legislation also creates offenses of assault and aggravated assault against a first responder. It clarifies that vandalism on state or local government property, whether temporary or permanent, and valued less than $2,500, is a Class A misdemeanor. If the property vandalized is designated as a historic landmark, it is considered a Class E felony. During the regular session, Doggett served as vice chairman of the Commerce Committee, and was on the Business Subcommittee, the Judiciary Committee and on the Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Raising his public profile was a picture in a recent edition of The Tennessee Journal, a newspaper covering state politics. Doggett was in the background of a photo of State Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland.

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