Sheriff’s program aims to improve interactions with special needs people

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has launched a new program to help deputies better respond to calls involving people with special needs.

Called “Project Safe Encounter,” the program enables county residents to register themselves or family members who have medical conditions or developmental disabilities that may affect the way they interact with and respond to law enforcement officers, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Tuesday.

Some of the conditions cited as examples are Alzheimer’s disease, autism, Down syndrome, deafness and blindness. Residents can provide pictures, information about how to best communicate with the person and potential triggers to avoid. Deputies will be able to access the information as they respond to a call.

The Sheriff’s Office also notes that any information provided through the program might be used while conducting investigations.

The program is available in English and Spanish.

“In times of crisis, every second counts,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said in the news release. “With this information now readily available to our deputies, they will be prepared to deescalate a situation before they even respond to a call and come into contact with the known individual.”