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Developmental Disabilities: What Law Enforcement Officers Need to Know

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2022
2 pages

This brief, informational document provides an outline of basic information that law enforcement officers should know about people with disabilities, listing examples of possible encounters between law enforcement and people with developmental disabilities, and providing recommended responses; the document also provides a list of resources for further information.


This document, developed for law enforcement officers to better understand how a developmental disability (DD) impacts a person and how, in turn, that may impact encounters between law enforcement and individuals with DD. The document notes that people with DD are victimized almost four times as much as people without disabilities. It notes that cognitive disabilities are likely to have law enforcement called by others due to reports of suspicious or out-of-the-ordinary behavior, disturbances due to an inability to de-escalate a situation, and wandering; it also notes that people with DD may be used by others in order to carry out criminal activity without knowing that they are being used. The document explains how understanding more about disabilities can lead to safe and effective interactions, and presents a chart that lays out possible behaviors of persons with DD and the corresponding, recommended responses for law enforcement. Finally, it lists some resources where officers may find more information, including links.

Date Published: April 1, 2022