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New Florida law aims to improve relationship between law enforcement, people with disabilities

ORLANDO, Fla. — A new Florida law aimed at improving relations between law enforcement and people with special needs or mental illness will go into effect on Jan. 1.

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The law is called the “Special Persons Registry” or the “Protect Our Loved Ones Act” and applies to people with developmental or psychological disabilities.

It authorizes local law enforcement agencies to develop a database of people who may have conditions like autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia disorder, or Down syndrome.

“The officers will know what they’re going into,” Edith Gendron, the Chief of Operations at the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center said. “They won’t be left to guess why this person might seem to be hallucinating.”

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Gendron has seen how a situation can end badly if law enforcement doesn’t know the condition of the person they are dealing with.

“The person living with Alzheimer’s disease jumped out of the car,” Gendron said. “The spouse came around and was struggling with the person trying to get them back in the car. The spouse got arrested for domestic violence.”

Gendron hopes this registry will help prevent situations like that from happening.

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A person’s information is given voluntarily or by a caretaker if they can’t do it themselves.

Documentation, like a birth certificate and proof of eligibility, will be required to enroll in the registry.

Those registered will be notified in writing by law enforcement. This is of concern to Gendron for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

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“Sometimes people lose the ability to comprehend and read,” Gendron said. “Sometimes reading something like that can be distressful. We’ll have to take that one as it comes and see how it goes.”

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