INDIANAPOLIS – Some law enforcement agencies are working to better communicate with Hoosiers who have disabilities. And some state lawmakers want to join those efforts.
Emergency communication boards are now located inside every vehicle with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. They were donated by the Autism Society of Indiana to help deputies communicate with Hoosiers who have disabilities.
“There’s pictures of, ‘How do you feel? Or are you hurt? Are you injured?'” explained Sgt. Brian Hogue.
“A lot of people that are on the spectrum look just like you and me, but they could take anywhere from 10 [seconds] to almost a full minute to respond to a normal question,” he added.
Sgt. Hogue is familiar with those conditions. He has two kids with autism.
“So some people not knowing that might say ‘Well, he’s trying to avoid answering my questions,'” he said.
Sgt. Hogue said he supports a Statehouse proposal allowing Hoosiers to voluntarily designate a certain disability or medical condition on their driver’s license or other state ID.
State Sen. Rodney Pol (D-Chesterton) introduced the bill last session.
“They may not pick up on the signs there and that training doesn’t go into effect immediately,” Pol said. “They may actually rely on officer safety training, which may be a little bit more assertive or aggressive.”
The bill didn’t get a hearing this year.
State Sen. Michael Crider (R-Greenfield), who chairs the homeland security and transportation committee, cited concerns over costs and potential changes to Indiana’s driver’s license.
“First, the cost to implement such a change would have exceeded our fiscal limit for bills in a non-budget session,” Crider said in a statement. “The BMV was also concerned about additional symbols or changes to the credential as we implement the Real ID format.”
Pol said he plans to reintroduce the bill next year, though Crider said he’s not sure if he would give the bill a hearing if he’s still the committee chair.
Meanwhile, Indiana nonprofits are working to reach more law enforcement agencies with enhanced disability training.
“Mostly, a lot of individuals with disabilities just need a little bit of extra processing time,” said Stephanie Garner, program coordinator with Down Syndrome Indiana, which offers classes to law enforcement officers.