Mom teams up with police to connect cops with disabled residents

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — A Hampton mother and the police department have developed a program to help officers work with some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

A Safer Hampton Roads allows caretakers of people with disabilities and disorders to share important information with police that may bring calm to otherwise chaotic situations.

Crystal Bethea says she approached Lt. Scott Keller with the idea after attending an NAACP workshop about controversial police killings across the country in May 2015.

Bethea, who has an eight-year-old son with autism, says she saw an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between officers and those in the community with disabilities.

“I want, if he’s out and about, that [officers’] will know who he is,” said Bethea, of her son Isaiah. “What do you do when you encounter someone like that? Who may not understand your commands or you are approaching them aggressively and they maybe freeze up or run.”

A Safer Hampton Roads allows caretakers to register their loved ones online by answering a series of questions, including their name, age, disability, emergency contact information and any medication they are prescribed.

The information is stored on a database that officers in the field can easily access.

“This isn’t just for children. It’s for adults, too,” said Lt. Keller.

Keller says elderly residents, those with dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder are ideal candidates for the free program.

“Typically, you see a lot of use of force incidents in law enforcement across the country that are over within 10 to 15 seconds upon the officer’s arrival. We want to increase that time,” said Keller.

Bethea hopes if people give police more information up front, officers in the field will be able to personalize the way they police to better serve the community.

“It’s all positive. It’s all to keep people safe, not just the citizens of Hampton, but also the police officers.”

To enroll in the free program, visit the Hampton Police Division’s web page here.