WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- A new program in West Valley City is working to keep people with special needs safe when they have a run-in with police.
The West Valley City Police Department has been looking at national and local data and how their officers can improve when responding to situations involving people with special needs.
Now officers are working to make those interactions safer for all involved.
“We do not want people to fail to call police or medical because they're concerned over what will happen when law enforcement arrives,” Det. Ryan Carver said.
The Special Needs Safety Program is run by the department's Crisis Intervention Team.
Family members or caregivers can register online and give police information on their loved one, including what they look like, where they might go and how they might behave.
“We describe every detail of the person in these programs in this form,” Carver said.
For Jennifer Talboe, a mother of four autistic children, this program is life-changing.
“I was one of those parents that reached burnout,” she said. “A friend of mine actually called CIT to do a welfare check on me, and that’s kind of where I got to meet Detective Fox and we found out that there aren’t really any resources for parents.”
Talboe has all four of her children signed up for the program but said she especially worries about her oldest child.
“My 9-year-old, when he gets in a meltdown situation, he can actually become quite aggressive and without knowing what’s going on you can see it as just aggression instead of somebody who can’t control their environment,” Talboe said.
But she said this program gives her peace of mind.
“It’s given me a resource where, if one of my kids decides to walk out the front door and now I can’t find them, I know I can call CIT and they have the information of who my kid is, places that they might frequent—if they do end up in a meltdown situation they know how to handle it,” she said.
After a family signs up, a member of the Crisis Intervention Team will personally meet with them and address any questions and concerns. The ultimate goal is a safer outcome for every person in every situation.
“Law enforcement's goal is not to escalate a problem. Law enforcement's goal is to de-escalate and solve a problem,” Carver said.
The program isn't just for children and is open to all people with special needs, including older adults with dementia. Click here for more information or to sign up.