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APP Aims To Facilitate Interactions Between Police and Autistic Individuals

NCJ Number
Techbeat Dated: March 2017 Pages: 7-9
Date Published
March 2017
3 pages
This article describes the features of an app designed to ease the risk for misunderstanding and conflict when police officers interact with individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities.
The app is called Vulnerable Individuals Technology Assisted Location Services (VITALS). The app was developed under a partnership involving the St. Paul (Minnesota) Police Department, the Autism Society of Minnesota (AUSM) and Aware Services, LLC. Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that can cause challenges in social, communication, and behavioral challenges. It affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. Persons with autism may exhibit behaviors that can be misinterpreted as uncooperative or evasive. VITALS uses a mobile app and a small beacon that enables individuals to voluntarily disclose their disability to emergency responders who come within a 30 to 50 foot radius. The individual carries the beacon that can be detected by the app on the emergency responder's mobile phone. When the beacon is detected, the responder can see a photo of the individual along with information such as name, age, height, diagnosis, and behavioral triggers (i.e.., bright, flashing lights and being pushed or touched). De-escalation techniques are suggested to the responder for the particular individual, and caregiver contact information is provided. Officers have done preliminary testing of the app, which will undergo a pilot test using police officers and volunteer members of the autistic community.

Date Published: March 1, 2017