By Tara Gibson - October 7, 2020
Between the ongoing public health crisis, country-wide civil unrest, and severe storms and weather events, the need for public safety technology is more important than ever. State and local leaders have been grappling with one disaster after the next, with 2020 proving to be an incredibly difficult and worrisome year. Having the ability to share critical data across jurisdictions and public safety agencies is one crucial factor in keeping communities – including those with physical, mental health, intellectual, and developmental disabilities - across the country safe.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen tragic stories of law enforcement encounters with somebody with mental illness or a disability where the outcome has been a senseless and avoidable death. Unexpected behaviors displayed by individuals with physical, mental health, developmental, or intellectual disabilities can be interpreted by police officers as threatening behaviors, especially during a high-stress situation.
Because these individuals likely don’t understand the shouted commands given by law enforcement, their confusion is often interpreted as non-compliance or a threat to officers. A 2016 study conducted by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that one-third to one-half of people killed by the police are those suffering from disabilities. Another study conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center found that people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians. Both heartbreaking statistics.
A nationwide survey of 2,406 senior law enforcement officials – 75% who were officers for longer than 20 years - was conducted and found about 84% of respondents said there had been an increase in the mentally ill population over the length of their career. With an average of 240 million calls to 9-1-1 in the United States every year, and over 600,000 calls a day, there’s bound to be an increase of calls related to mental illness.
It's no question: there is more that must be done to protect these communities. From better training for first responders to comprehensive public safety technologies, state and local governments must implement new strategies to ensure these tragedies no longer occur.
A breakdown of communication between law enforcement and those with disabilities or mental illness can be deadly. Bridging this gap with updated first responder training and a comprehensive public safety communication and collaboration platform could potentially be the difference between life and death.
There are several things state and local governments, law enforcement and public safety agencies, and 9-1-1 dispatch centers can do to share crucial data, such as a disability, across multiple jurisdictions. Citizens don’t always stay put in one city or town, which is why having an all-inclusive look at your community and the communities surrounding it can be extremely helpful when it comes to emergency response.
Putting a comprehensive 9-1-1 technology solution can be hugely helpful for dispatching 9-1-1 centers looking to improve processes for handling, dispatching, and responding to emergencies more efficiently – especially emergencies regarding residents with disabilities or mental illness. Here are some features to consider:
Public safety profiles have become a tremendously helpful solution for law enforcement, emergency managers, 9-1-1 call takers, and communities. By providing individuals the opportunity to self-disclose their medical history within a public safety profile, such as mental illness, intellectual disabilities, and developmental disabilities, as well as including specific instructions and communication concerns that may arise during an interaction with law enforcement, 9-1-1 dispatchers have a clear picture of the person involved in an emergency. They can then inform first responders so that they arrive on the scene prepared.
For example, say a mother calls 9-1-1 to report that her son is having a mental health incident and acting erratically. The 9-1-1 call taker would be able to pull up his profile and relay critical information to emergency responders on how they should respond and handle the situation. This would reduce the potential of a fatal interaction and prevent harm from coming to both the police officer and the individual involved.
Going hand-in-hand with public safety profiles, a vulnerable needs registry allows communities to input critical information about themselves and their families. With this information, emergency managers have a great understanding of the needs of their cities or towns, and during an emergency can allocate resources and send help to impacted areas or individuals.
Promoting both a registry and public safety profiles with your community - and organizations within the community - is important in making sure residents choose to sign up and understand the benefits of signing up. For customers with Smart911 public safety profiles, find great resources you can share with your community here.
Watch all of this in action by watching the quick demo video of the Rave 9-1-1 Suite:
Data being available across jurisdictions and public safety agencies will allow 9-1-1 and emergency responders to have a good understanding of the residents and citizens they’ll encounter. Often, personnel from multiple counties, towns, and agencies are brought in to help during a critical event. Nearby jurisdictions would be able to access this crucial data through an online portal which would be extremely helpful during an emergency.
Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!
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