WMBD/WYZZ— McLean County— Police departments in McLean County are taking action to better serve its special needs residents. Local law enforcement kicked off it's Early Notification Program Tuesday. Police officials say it is the only program of it’s kind in the country. Basically, the program allows officers to know ahead of time if they are responding to someone with special needs. That way, they will be able to better understand the person's actions. People with conditions such as autism, Alzheimer’s, and mental illnesses can register with the Early Notification Program, which will help officers respond to those residents accordingly. Normal Police Chief Kent Crutcher says through his research, unnecessary deadly force is used all too often around the country against people with special needs. For instance, if someone who is hard of hearing reaches for a pen and paper, police might think they are reaching for a gun.
"It's very valuable to know that information prior to your arrival,” Crutcher said. “It will not only help you formulate a plan, it will help you in your interaction with those persons at the scene and hopefully prevent an unfortunate outcome."
Crutcher says special needs conditions will be kept confidential and says health information will be denied during a freedom of information request. Local groups say they are happy about the new program.
"Over the years, there have been many people that have been deaf and use sign language and have been shot in police encounters because they failed to respond to a police command,” said Gail Kear with the Life Center for Independent Living.
"This program gives the officer an extra tool that when they approach someone they can say this person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and they may not be able to respond to your questions," said Robert Baker of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Police departments in McLean County will have at least two trained crisis intervention team members on each shift.
Representative Dan Brady says House Bill 47, which protects participant's information from going public, passed out of state government committee this morning.
To register for the Early Notification Program, contact your local police department.
Participating Police Departments
Bloomington Police Department
Chenoa Police Department
Colfax Police Department
Danvers Police Department
Downs Police Department
Ellsworth Police Department
Heyworth Police Department
Hudson Police Department
LeRoy Police Department
Lexington Police Department
Normal Police Department
Stanford Police Department
McLean County Sheriff’s Department
Early Notification Program
(Examples of the conditions that may be included in the program)
-Deaf/ Hard of Hearing
-Mental Illnesses (mood disorders, psychotic disorders, impulse control disorders, anxiety disorders, childhood disorders)
-Other Special Needs