In an effort to be more understanding—and accepting—of people on the autism spectrum and better understand interactions with those who have problems as a result, St. Cloud Police Department Monday night – May 1, the start of Mental Health Awareness Month — it has created a Special Needs Registry.
The listing is an attempt, the agency said promote healthy interactions and relationships with mental or neurological special needs who live in or frequently visit St. Cloud.
“To be more welcoming and accepting of those on the autism spectrum or with other cognitive, behavioral or neurological conditions, we have created a Special Needs Registry to assist residents and improve community relations,” SCPD said in its statement Monday evening.
Information about the completely voluntary program and how to participate can be found at https://www.stcloudfl.gov/2220/Special-Needs-Registry. It contains some tips for parents or relatives of those with autism on how to make police encounters less stressful.
“Sometimes people on the spectrum can feel scared or nervous when interacting with first responders, especially during an emergency,” Police Chief Doug Goerke said.
As part of the plan, rresidents are encouraged to provide information about a special needs relative of any age who may need special assistance in an emergency or when interacting with city police officers.
Participants will receive stickers for their home and vehicle.
“They want to let first responders know that someone with autism or special needs may be present and we should be extra careful,” Goerke said. “The St. Cloud Police Department wants to ensure that everyone feels safe and respected when interacting with the police.”
If an officer has contact with a person in the program, dispatchers can provide the officer with the information necessary to interact and communicate with them, as well as provide contact information for the person who completed the registration.
Leveraging technology, if a person in the registry is reported missing information about their physical appearance, the most likely places for them to go, and triggers, stimuli and de-escalation techniques, will be sent to police officers in the area to look for the missing person . If the person is unable to effectively communicate their name to an officer, a computerized neighborhood check of registrants, combined with physical appearance, may allow police to identify the person more quickly.