Parents of autistic children and families of loved ones living with mental health or medical disabilities are invited to register with the Amherst Police Department’s new community policing response program, Code Yellow. The program is intended to aid police dispatchers and officers in their response to calls for assistance involving individuals with significant mental health or medical impairments in order provide the best possible level of service.
The registration process includes taking a photograph and obtaining basic information about the individual and their family which will be made available to first responders in the event of an emergency. The program is designed to help public safety personnel locate children and adults affected by autism, Alzheimer’s, and other disorders who may have wandered away from home, and is also designed to provide a framework for public safety response to other crisis situations such as behavioral episodes or medical emergencies. This is an open invitation to all families who feel that registering their family member may assist first responders in the event of an emergency. The information kept on file will remain confidential within the police department, and will be accessed only by emergency personnel who are engaged in a crisis situation such an attempt to locate a missing person or a call for emergency medical treatment.
The Amherst Police Department is providing this service for the benefit of all Amherst families that live in town, as well as for those families who reside elsewhere but who have a loved one living or working in town on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. The program draws upon similar best practices which have been put into place in other communities nationwide, but has been specifically developed with Amherst families in mind. Registrations may be made in person at the Amherst Police Department without appointment and at any time, seven days a week. For those who are unable to respond to the police station or who would prefer a residential visit, an officer or detective can meet with the family in their own home to obtain the necessary information.
Families with questions or special concerns are encouraged to contact the Amherst Police Department at 673-4900, or via e-mail to Chief Mark Reams to obtain further information.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is eligible?
The program has been developed with the intent to serve all members of the Amherst community whose ability to communicate may be challenged or diminished when interacting with police. Examples include persons with developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s patients, and other individuals who may be at an increased level of risk due to a medical impairment.
If I don’t live in Amherst, can I still register my child/dependent adult?
If you do not live in Amherst but your child or dependent adult comes to Amherst on a regular basis (i.e. for work, school, childcare, hospice care, etc.) or otherwise resides in Amherst on a permanent or semi-permanent basis, then you should participate in the program. If the registrant is not in Amherst regularly, then there would be no real benefit to registering.
As soon as I send the registration, will the information be immediately available in the event a police or emergency medical response is required?
The registration form will need to be entered into the records system and linked with any photographs in order to capture all relevant information. Though the registration is an important and expedited process, it may take up to seven days to be fully processed. However, in the event of a crisis situation in the meantime, dispatchers will still be able to access the hard copy of the registration form for immediate use.
Who has access to my child’s/family member’s profile?
Amherst Police personnel who require this information in the performance of their duties will have access to the information. There are strict regulations with respect to accessing and disseminating information. However, the sharing of this information with other police agencies during an emergency can be helpful when a person is registered in Amherst but wanders off into another jurisdiction.
How often should I update the registration profile?
In order to be most effective, we recommend updating the profile every year. In the event that the profile is not updated, the last known information will still be maintained in the police department’s record system.
Can I update my profile more than every year if there are changes? If so, how do I do that?
You may, however, only information that has a significant impact on policing response will be necessary. Some examples would include a change in address, school, or emergency contact. You do not need to report a change in hair cut or color, for example, as the police are familiar with the changes that can be made and are more likely to notice height, weight and eye color. Changes may be made by filling out a new registration form.
Will I be notified when the annual renewal is required?
The renewals are the sole responsibility of the parent/guardian. It is recommended that you renew the registration during the month of the registrant’s birthday as a reminder.
If there is an incident involving my child/dependent adult, should I notify the police that he/she is registered with the agency?
It is preferable that you let the police know that the individual is already registered. In doing so, the registrant’s information will be immediately passed along to responding officers which will eliminate the need for dispatchers to ask parents/guardians for descriptive information during a high stress situation.
How will this registration program help if my child/dependent adult goes missing?
If the individual goes missing and is reported by the parent/guardian, information about his/her physical appearance, the most likely places where he/she would go to, as well as triggers, stimulants, and de-escalation techniques will be sent to every police officer in the area to look for the missing person. If police encounter a registrant who has not been reported missing and is incapable of effectively communicating his/her name to an officer, a computer check of the neighborhood, coupled with the physical appearance and may allow us to identify the individual more quickly. This will then allow police to use the contact information to connect with the parents/guardians.
What guarantees do we have that the interaction between our child/dependent adult and the police will be positive once he/she is registered?
Although the program has obvious benefits, there is no guarantee of a positive outcome since each situation and set of circumstances is unique. However, the registration process provides patrol officers with critical information which allows them to respond more efficiently to any calls for service. It should be stressed that simply having a person registered is not going to change police responses in every instance involving an individual with special needs. Police will act according to procedure depending upon the circumstances. For example, if the registrant is suspected of being involved in a criminal act, then he/she may still be arrested. However, being registered will assist police in tailoring their response to the incident and will ensure that the correct people are contacted.