GENEVA, N.Y. -- Police officers in Geneva are training on how to handle situations involving people with disabilities.

Fifty to 80 percent of people police officers come in contact with have a disability, which is the driving force behind the Disability Awareness Training for First Responders.

“A police officer receives about 14 hours of mental health training through the police academy when they initially go through school, and that’s really it,” Geneva Police Sgt. Michael Passalacqua said. “We don’t really have much more exposure than that.”

Passalacqua and two other officers became instructors for the class after they attended a training course themselves.

From traumatic brain injury, to cerebral palsy and beyond, officers not only learned about a large variety of disabilities, but how to deal with them in certain situations.

“During the training, there were sample incidents that were actually taken from the Buffalo Police Department because the training comes out of Niagara University,” Passalacqua said. “There were actual sceneries that we talked about like how do you deal with this or what would you do in this scenario?”

Officer Michael Tapscott said he now better understands children with disabilities, especially those with disorders such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“It’s hard to speak with kids as it is and then just to be patient, be a lot more patient that you already have to be with juveniles and children,” Tapscott said. “It just makes you calm down and take it a little bit at a time.”

With all these tips, Passalacqua hopes it makes for a better community overall.

“Everybody has a different story,” Passalacqua said. “Everybody’s background is different, and everyone needs to be treated equally.

"So as long as they know that these things are in play and some of these variables may come up, the stuff that they were trained today and over the last few weeks department wide, hopefully will help them in the future when dealing with an individual with a disability.”