The Stockton Police Department in California has introduced a pioneering initiative called the Your Way Registry Program to enhance law enforcement’s response to calls involving individuals with mental or neurological disabilities and medical conditions.
The program aims to provide officers with crucial information about the people they are responding to, allowing them to approach situations more effectively while ensuring the safety of people involved in an incident.
According to SPD officials, the Your Way Registry Program encourages community members to voluntarily provide information about themselves or their loved ones through an online form. This information can be invaluable to officers when responding to emergency calls, and encompasses a wide range of medical, developmental, neurological or mental conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, bipolar disorder and Down syndrome.
At a press conference introducing the program, Tami Marsh, a parent whose child has autism, explained how it could be potentially lifesaving.
“When an officer comes out to our home … a normal child would respond differently; our kids might rush after them too because they don’t know. So this is going to definitely help, and it can save lives,” Marsh said.
Participants in the registry can also provide details on how individuals react to specific stimuli, such as canines, officers in uniform, physical contact or loud noises. Once the eight-page form is completed, registrants will receive a Your Way Registry decal to display on their cars or windows, signaling to officers that special considerations may be necessary.
According to a Washington Post database, nearly one in five people shot by police officers since 2015 had mental health conditions, highlighting the importance of clear communication with responding officers.
Police Chief Stanley McFadden said the program will help facilitate that communication with the community.
“We recognize that our community members may require additional assistance or accommodations during emergency situations. What the community members feel is important for us to know is the information we can get into the data system,” McFadden stated.
In addition to the registry program, Stockton P.D. is taking proactive steps to better serve individuals with mental illnesses through additional training exercises focused on de-escalation techniques. Officers will not only receive an extra 40 hours of training on mental illness and behavioral health crises, but will also partner with social workers, case managers and medical assistants provided by the Stockton nonprofit Community Medical Centers to respond to certain nonviolent police calls.
According to Officer David Scott, calls that armed police officers will not respond to will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Police officials say that most importantly, the program will provide officers with valuable insights and tools to ensure safer and more effective interactions during emergency situations.
“The Stockton Police Department is listening to the voices of those who have firsthand experience in ensuring that our response strategies are responsive and adaptable to every community,” McFadden said, stressing the department’s focus on adaptability and empathy.
“There’s not a community member it can’t relate to,” the chief said.