General News

Program started to provide police with information about people with disabilities

During a suspicious situation a police officer can sometimes misinterpret the actions of an autistic person.

Through a new program adopted by the Cape Girardeau Police Department, responders will be taught how to identify and help people with special needs during a crisis.

"Just by simply starting a program like this officers will start asking questions," said Cape Girardeau officer A.C. Walker, who developed the program.

Take Me Home is a database compiled by the department to help people with special needs and increase awareness throughout the police force.

"We can redirect our behaviors as officers to better provide for our community," she said.

How it works

The database includes a photo, descriptive information and contact information for people who register. It could include children who are deaf, have autism or Down syndrome, she said.

When a child with special needs is missing, for example, emergency responders will have information about their condition on hand, Walker said. She said she realized the need for a program like this after seeing distraught parents during similar situations.

"We can help alleviate that if Mom knows we already have the information," she said.

Walker said she worked with software developed by the Pensacola Police Department, which started the program in 2003. After learning about the program during a training session at the Southeast Missouri State University Autism Center in April, she said she decided to adopt it to fit Cape Girardeau.

Dispatchers will have access to the database and can relay information to police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The department is working with the Autism Center, the Judevine Center for Autism and the Tailor Institute to help increase awareness of the program and enroll people.

"Anytime you have an emergency situation, anyone becomes less communicative," said Connie Hebert, director of the Autism Center.

Program benefits

During a natural disaster or accident, officers will know how to address the needs of someone who cannot speak or communicate effectively because of a disability.

"These children often do not respond in usual ways," Hebert said.

The program will also help avoid miscommunications, said Elaine Beussink, director of the Tailor Institute. When questioned by police officers, an innocent situation can escalate quickly for an autistic person. Officers sometimes mistake them for being drunk or on drugs when they react to questioning, Beussink said.

"Anxiety is pretty prolific throughout the population," she said.

Walker said she hopes the program will expand to other communities. She said she will also work to include Alzheimer's patients as the Cape Girardeau database expands.

On Friday, Walker will be at Parks and Recreation Day at the Osage Community Centre from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to register children. The program is voluntary and information is kept confidential, Walker said. Anyone can register throughout the year, and the information will be updated once a year.

Source : Alaina Busch ~ Southeast Missourian

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

40 S. Sprigg St. Cape Girardeau, MO

920 Broadway Cape Girardeau, MO

Additional Information

Country: United States of America
Website: http://www.semissourian.com/story/1553259.html
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Source: Posted in http://rcdisabilities.blogspot.com/2009/07/program-started-to-provide-police-with.html by Ghulam Nabi Nizamani
When: 13/7/2009

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