Local News

Orange County database helps communication between officers, citizens

Posted June 9

— Responding to an emergency can be dangerous for any law enforcement officer. If the call involves a person with a mental-health issue or an intellectual disability, it can often create chaos and confusion for both sides.

Susan Humbert, who lives in Orange County, said she constantly worries about her 24-year-old son who has autism.

"There are challenges dealing with changes, anxiety and stress," she said.

Humbert saw the stories on the news of others with intellectual disabilities or mental-health issues and saw how some of the interactions with law enforcement can spiral out of control.

"You think about you or me and if we got pulled over and how stressful it is for you, and you multiple that times 100 for someone with a disability," Humbert said.

Her concern over her son's safety spurred Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood to start a database called Josh's Hope.

"Any behavioral characteristics, any sensory or medical issues, favorites places they might go to, wandering places they might go to," said Blackwood.

Blackwood says the confidential information can be accessed by officers in their cars on data terminals. It gives them detailed information on how to deal with a specific individual.

He believes it will help law enforcement officers more effectively respond to emergencies.

"You're taking a situation that is already chaotic...so, if we know those triggers and know the calming techniques that we're gathering in the database, then it gives us the tools to deal with those individuals," Blackwood said.

Humbert says the database has already given her a welcome sense of relief.

"It's really important to have this database and have the information to know this child has difficulties and it's not because they're a bad person," Humbert said.

The database is completely voluntary, but Blackwood says they have gotten a good response from the community.

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