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MBPD Prepares to Launch Disability ID Program

Mar 09, 2024 05:32PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The Manhattan Beach Police Department is preparing to launch a voluntary identification program that would help officers ID a person with special needs in responding to a service call.

The opt-in registration program would allow residents to fill out a "Resident's Safety Form" that would identify a person with special needs in a given household, along with behavior triggers and calming phrases or objects to assist officers in their response. 

Residents would then be able to put a distinctive sunflower sticker on their home windows, cars, or phones to help police identify a special needs situation. (Or they could simply post the sticker without filling out the registration form.)

MBPD Chief Rachel Johnson told the Manhattan Beach City Council that the effort was part of MBPD's strategic plan that was created with help from the community in identifying issues to work on, one of which was this particular outreach project. 

Sticker Could Help In Calls for Assistance

MBPD's Lt. Steve Kitsios said that the program would be helpful in dealing with both youth and the elderly with disabilities.

He cited a situation in December which the police had gotten a call about domestic violence and it was reported that a husband had pushed the wife to the ground. But when police arrived at the home, the husband and wife were inside; crying, shook up, and nervous of the police presence because it was actually the couple's son with special needs - 6' 1" and 250 pounds - who had pushed the mother to the ground. 

"They were very nervous because of how the police might have reacted had the husband not been home or if the son came out first," said Kitsios. "If the sticker had been on the window prior to us coming, we would have had a game plan: 'Hey guys, look, there's someone with special needs here, someone with a disability.' If someone comes out acting somewhat odd, we know what we we're dealing with, we can prepare better."

MBPD cited statistics that one in five people in L.A. County has a disability; including 10% of youth, with autism spectrum disorder particularly prevalent. Approximately 13.5% of children in L.A. County are enrolled in some form of special education. 

Meanwhile, the elderly dementia rate is higher in L.A. County (15%) than the state (10%) or national (11%) averages.

Kitsios said that the police would be partnering with the Friendship Foundation - which has 900 student participants across MBUSD - as well as with the city's older adult coordinators and the Beach Cities Health District's community services division to help get the word out and distribute stickers.

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