Moberly Police Department launching voluntary autism directory

4 weeks 13 hours 58 minutes ago Sunday, May 27 2018 May 27, 2018 Sunday, May 27, 2018 11:58:00 AM CDT May 27, 2018 in Continuous News
By: Stephanie Hamann, KOMU 8 Reporter

MOBERLY - The Moberly Police Department is making a voluntary directory of people with autism in Moberly and Randolph County.

With the directory, police would have information provided by the person with autism or the person's guardian, such as the person’s photo, diagnosis, wandering habits, calming strategies, triggers and sensitivities to bright lights, touch and sounds.

People in the directory will also receive a sticker with an identification number for the window of their home or car. The sticker will convey to officers that a person who lives in the home or uses the car is in the directory. The directory information will only be accessible to first responders and law enforcement.

Chief of Police Troy Link said the directory will be put in place early this fall. He said there could be up to 300 people in Moberly with autism, and up to 600 in Randolph County with autism. When developing the directory system, the Moberly Police Department consulted the St. Joseph Police Department, which has an autism directory, Link said.

“It benefits us if we can get that directory up and going because we get critical information on how to approach, how to interact and how to communicate with those with autism,” Link said.

Link said officers could make adjustments before coming in contact with an individual with autism by using the directory. For example, if an officer sees that a person in the directory has light sensitivity, the officer could shut off patrol car lights prior to approaching him or her. When interacting with an individual, an officer could also lower his or her voice and phrase questions differently, Link said.

Link said some people were concerned that a sticker identifying someone as being would make a car or home more likely to be harassed or targeted. As a result, the police removed the wording.

“It looks like a parking sticker,” Link said. A person can also be removed from the directory, Link said.

Officer Adam Swon said the department recognizes the personal nature of the information.

“We’re gonna treat this information with the same level of computer security that we do our evidence,” Swon said.

The Moberly police contacted Nikki Soendker to get her input on the directory form. Soendker and her husband have three sons with autism and are the founders of Unfinish3d Pieces, a charity that spreads autism awareness.

“This will just give families that peace of mind when they go out in public or just being at home that their child will be safe because there’s something in place to help ensure their safety,” Soendker said.

Officers talked with people curious about the directory at Autism Awareness Day on April 28 in Moberly’s Rothwell Park.

Link said the police department is considering similar directories for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

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