CENTENNIAL - Years ago, Deputy Brian McKnight found himself on a call where he wasn't entirely sure what to do dealing with a person with Down syndrome.
"My first situation was a call for of an individual who had become violent in school. I had no idea what I was dealing with and I felt very frustrated," McKnight said.
He is now the Crime Prevention Specialist for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department and he does not want to find himself nor any other deputy in that situation again.
"We thought we need to take this to the next level and this is what we came up with," McKnight said.
Working with the Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association and its executive director, Mac Macsovits, McKnight developed a training program to teach deputies how to recognize people with Down syndrome and how to handle their differences.
"People with Down syndrome process information a little bit differently, sometimes a little bit slower." Macsovits said. "All the training is about safety - safety for the deputies and safety for the citizens."
In January 2013, a man with Down syndrome, Ethan Saylor died after a confrontation with police at a Maryland movie theater escalated unnecessarily. Macsovits says the point of this for tragedies like that to never happen again.
"Hopefully, any type of violent interaction would be avoided," Macsovits said.
McKnight says this is training all law enforcement agents should go through.
"It's new information and something they can see is going to be vital to the future of law enforcement," McKnight said.
The future also includes a new voluntary identification program for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The ID card would include what type of disability a person has, plus emergency contact information of care givers or family members.
"If they're in a stressful situation, they're going to be trained to hand that ID card out," McKnight said.
Training for disabled citizens will be a big part of the program.
"We're going to teach them about personal safety, situational awareness, and how to interact with law enforcement, fire, and paramedics in an emergency situation," McKnight said.
Macsovits loves the idea.
"The ID card program is going to be pivotal to all the success of this training," Macsovits said. "That would help alleviate a lot of these interactions that can escalate unnecessarily."
McKnight hopes this program takes off and draws interest from department around Colorado.
"It gives them more tools to handle the situation and make sure the outcome is what we're looking for," McKnight said. "The ability to handle the situation with information and knowledge that I did not have."