Dementia Training for Texas Law Enforcement

Posted on 03/20/23 by Anna Mudumala

About 400,000 Texans live with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. If passed, House Bill 568 would ensure that these Texans have the appropriate safety and support when interacting with law enforcement. Similar legislation was passed earlier this year in Ohio.

State Rep. Rhetta Bowers, D-Garland has filed H.B. 568, which would require that peace officers are trained on how to work with people with dementia. This session, the bill has been approved by the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.

People with dementia experience changes in personality and behavior that might result in police encounters. Common issues include wandering, car accidents, shoplifting, and violence. When encountering people with dementia, police officers should know how to respond appropriately, and could benefit from specialized training.

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According to the Alzheimer’s Association, people with dementia may be unable to cooperate because they are unable to understand or remember what occurred. Law enforcement officers should be aware of this and communicate in a clear and non-threatening way.

If a police officer cannot recognize and respond to signs of dementia, the situation may unnecessarily escalate. The Marshall Project reported on a frustrating instance of this in El Paso. According to the group's report, in October of 2021, Armando Navejas wandered from his home. Navejas had Parkinson’s disease and struggled to speak. Upon being found, Navejas became violent and was hit with a stun gun by a police officer. He was hospitalized, then placed in a rehabilitation facility, where he later passed away from natural causes. His family is now suing the police officers and the city.

AARP Texas State Director Tina Tran believes that H.B. 568 would be a move in the right direction for Texans living with Alzheimer’s. “Peace officers provide a valuable service, and Representative Bowers’ H.B. 568 would ensure interactions with older adults with challenges of Alzheimer’s and other dementias are handled appropriately," Tran said. "Older adults will benefit greatly from this specialized training.”

This story is provided by AARP Texas. Visit the AARP Texas page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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