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New 'Special Persons Registry' helps police-citizen encounters

State law intended to provided deeper training on talking with people who live with disabilities
Posted at 6:19 PM, Jan 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-03 18:31:30-05

NAPLES, Fla — A new Florida law seeks to improve how police interact with people who have a disability. The Protect Our Loved Ones Act, now in effect, empowers law enforcement agencies to establish databases for those with special needs.

The information provided would be voluntarily given by individuals or their loved ones who have a disability and police agencies would have to opt into the program to collect the data.

In practical terms, officers can utilize this information to respond appropriately to situations involving individuals with disabilities such as Alzheimer's, autism or other conditions.

In an interview with Fox 4, Stephanie Nordin, the President and Founder of Autism Collier, expressed optimism about the law.

"It's a good start. There needs to be an opportunity for a registry, and there needs to be training for officers," said Nordin.

Nordin, who has twin sons with autism, talked about her own experiences. She remembered being scared to call the police before because she worried about how they would handle her children's unpredictable behavior.

"I was afraid that if I called 911, an officer would shoot or baker act my son," Nordin said.

She emphasized how the registry helps the police better understand and respond to situations effectively.

"Each person with disability is unique and they have unique needs," she added.

Nordin praised the Collier County Sheriff's Office, stating that their Autism Support Project is an excellent program. She believes they are doing better than other places in the state.

The new law, allowing law enforcement to create a Special Persons Registry, is optional, and individuals must qualify to be on it.

You can also choose not to be on the registry and have your name removed.