A new initiative in the Bangor area aims to teach students in driver’s education classes how they should act when stopped by police officers.
The Courageous Steps Project, a Penobscot County organization that advocates for people with autism and other developmental disabilities, is leading the effort and has partnered with Beal College.
This week, about 15 teens who are taking a course at the college’s driving academy received a live demonstration of what it’s like to be stopped by police.
One by one, they got into a car with their instructor and began driving through the Beal College parking lot, just off Farm Road. Each time, Officer Amie Torrey of the Ellsworth Police Department, who had agreed to help with the exercise, stopped the students.
In the simulation, she told the students she had stopped them because their passenger — the instructor — was not wearing a seatbelt. She asked for their license, registration and insurance. After a quick trip back to her cruiser, she let them off with a warning.
In each case, the students did what their instructor had told them to do when stopped by an officer: They kept their hands on the steering wheel, tried to stay calm and answered the officer’s questions.
While the program is meant to help all driving students learn the best practices for responding to a police officer, it’s particularly geared toward people with developmental disabilities.
Those people might react to the stress of being pulled over by making sudden gestures or trying to grab a nearby object, according to Connor Archer, a 20-year-old on the autism spectrum who is the founder, president and executive director of the Courageous Steps Project.