[M]any police departments have trained officers and other first responders how to spot signs of autism and respond accordingly. Some organizations have also published identification cards that ASD adults can carry in order to defuse potential conflicts. Virginia provides for an autism designation on driver licenses and other state-issued identification cards. Once again, however, the dilemma of difference comes into play. One autistic Virginian worries: “Great, so if I get into an accident, who’s the cop going to believe, the guy with the autistic label or the guy without it?” Clinical psychologist Michael Oberschneider is concerned about the understanding level of first responders: “I think many people still think of Rain Man or, more recently, the Sandy Hook Shooter, when they think of autism even though very few people on the autistic spectrum are savants or are homicidal and dangerous.”
A new Florida law aimed at improving relations between law enforcement and people with special needs or mental illness will go into effect on Jan. 1.
The law is called the “Special Persons Registry” or the “Protect Our Loved Ones Act” and applies to people with developmental or psychological disabilities.
It authorizes local law enforcement agencies to develop a database of people who may have conditions like autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia disorder, or Down syndrome.
“The officers will know what they’re going into,” Edith Gendron, the Chief of Operations at the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center said. “They won’t be left to guess why this person might seem to be hallucinating.”
CS/HB 1275 passed the House on April 20, 2023, and subsequently passed the Senate on May 1, 2023.
Some behaviors associated with certain developmental, neurological, or psychological impairments can increase a person’s chances of negative interactions with law enforcement. These include the inability to follow instructions, acting out, inappropriate verbal statements, or other actions that may be mistakenly perceived as an indication of hostility, criminal intent, or alcohol or drug intoxication.
Some local law enforcement agencies have developed programs to create safer interactions between law enforcement and individuals with certain impairments or disabilities. These include registries that allow individuals with certain developmental, neurological, or psychological impairments to voluntarily enroll by submitting identifying information and indicating the condition they have that may be relevant to their interactions with law enforcement officers.
CS/HB 1275 creates s. 402.88, F.S., to establish uniform requirements for the operation of Persons with Disabilities Registries by law enforcement agencies. Registries may include individuals who have a developmental, psychological, or other disability or condition that may be relevant to their interactions with law enforcement officers. The bill requires specified professionals to diagnose and certify a person’s condition prior to eligibility for enrollment in a registry. The bill specifies enrollment and disenrollment processes for adults, minors, and adults declared incapacitated.
The bill authorizes a local law enforcement agency to provide access to a registry, and relevant information from the registry, to law enforcement officers engaged in official duties.
The bill is linked to CS/HB 1277, which creates a public records exemption for all records and personal identifying information relating to the enrollment of individuals in a persons with disabilities registry held by a local law enforcement agency.
The bill has no fiscal impact on state or local government.
The bill was approved by the Governor on June 29, 2023, ch. 2023-312, L.O.F., and will become effective on January 1, 2024.