In the past, police might have had little information to help them navigate interactions with people with disabilities, but one app developed by Vitals, could help the police department change that. The app allows citizens to fill out emergency contact forms, de-escalation techniques and personalized profiles for people with “invisible and visible conditions and disabilities,” according to a company brochure for the app. Once a person or their family member signs up, Vitals will provide a free ‘beacon’, or fob, to the individual, which can be worn on shoelaces, watches or necklaces. When police come within 80 feet of a beacon, an alert appears on their phones. With information from the app, police can personalize encounters. Here are some examples: If someone doesn’t like law enforcement, an officer will know to call an officer in plainclothes.
If someone is nonverbal, police will know who to contact to help them. If someone doesn’t like to be touched, an officer can make sure to stay several feet away, Officers can address people by their names and personalize their initial contact. If someone is having a reaction to a situation, for example, and police are called, the app will provide more information on how to best handle the situation. All the information provided by families is submitted through the company, not the police, and is secured and provided only to authorized first responders. Police will not stop or question anyone simply because an alert appears on their phones, said Steve. The information will be used when police need to aid. The beacon can also help police coordinate grid searches if a person with autism or dementia, for example, goes missing and has a beacon on them. Family members can also choose to upload videos for the police to play in certain situations. The Twin Cities-based company behind the app was launched in August 2017 in partnership with The Autism Society of Minnesota. More than 30 first responding agencies are using the app service, according to a release.