Mar 29, 2018 | By: AJ Feldman

New Service Hopes To Improve Communication Between Police And People With Disabilities

An encounter with law enforcement can be stressful for anyone. It can be even more stressful for a person with emotional, intellectual, or behavioral disabilities.

“We’re struggling with how to provide the best services to the individuals,” says Jim Exsted, Baxter Police Chief.

The service Vitals hopes to change that. A person with a disability is given a beacon, which notifies law enforcement when the person is within 80 feet of the police officer. The beacon can be a keychain, necklace, debit card, or bracelet. An Android phone can also serve as the beacon. Then, the police officer can see information that will allow the encounter to be as smooth as possible. This information can include unusual behaviors, ways to calm a person down, and behavior triggers.

“Parents have said that they’re running on red all the time,” says Nick Tietz, one of the co-founders of Vital. “We just want to bring them down a little bit and make them feel more safe and secure with their loved one.”

In partnership with Crow Wing County Community Services, the following cities are launching Vitals this week: Baxter, Brainerd, Crosby, Cuyuna, Emily and Pequot Lakes. An estimated 75 Region V law enforcement officers, which includes Crow Wing County sheriff’s deputies, will begin using the Vitals First Responder App in the coming weeks.

While initially designed for those on the autism spectrum, it’s been used by people with ADHD, dementia, schizophrenia, and other conditions. Crow Wing County provides services to more than 430 individuals living with disabilities and an additional 530 vulnerable people over the age of 65.

Not only can the app prevent negative interactions, it can make new positive interactions based on the information provided to officers.

“If they load something in there that says that they love interactions with law enforcement or firefighters, we have an opportunity now to create a very positive interaction that otherwise never would have never happened,” says Exsted.

The service is available for $9.95 per month on an annual basis. You can find more information on their website, Vitals will also have a booth at the Brainerd Lakes Everything Expo on April 13th and 14th, 2018.

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