Two Christian County law enforcement agencies announced window decal programs to help citizens better communicate with law enforcement officers, and vice versa.
Christian County Sheriff Brad Cole announced through a Facebook video that the sheriff’s office will launch a window decal notification program that he hopes will make traffic stops safer for deputies and for citizens.
The Christian County Sheriff’s Office announced the introduction of a multi-colored ribbon with puzzle piece designs representing autism spectrum disorders, and a teal ribbon representing post-traumatic stress disorders.
“Whether you’re going to work, play, or visiting friends and family, most of us handle (traffic) without a second thought,” Cole said in the video.
However, for law enforcement officers, traffic is part of their job. Each traffic stop can offer unique challenges and a large degree of the unknown.
“Every car and driver is a different story and experience,” Cole said. “For my deputies, and law enforcement officers across the nation, each traffic stop has a variety of issues and concerns.”
Law enforcement agents can’t discern a driver’s state of mind, what’s happening with any of the vehicle’s occupants, or if there are any medical issues they should be aware of until they walk up to the driver’s window, Cole said.
“If the officer had a way of knowing if the person in that vehicle might be suffering from PTSD or ASD—autism spectrum disorder—the chances of a controlled situation might greatly improve,” Cole said.
Autistic persons may have difficulty communicating with law enforcement officers, processing what is occurring during a traffic stop or dealing with sensory issues that can occur as the result of a traffic stop.
Cole points out that the sights of lights and the sounds of sirens may be disturbing to persons with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The window ribbon program focuses on the concern for potential issues by addressing the area of time between initiating emergency lights and sirens to the knowledge attained after the initial contact,” Cole said.
Sometimes, an action as simple as a police officer turning off the front emergency lights on his/her patrol car can greatly aide in helping an autistic person handle a traffic stop.
Drivers with PTSD or ASD or persons who regularly transport passengers with PTSD or ASD are invited to contact the Christian County Sheriff’s Office for information on obtaining a ribbon decal for their vehicle’s rear window. Cole said deputies will assist drivers at the sheriff’s office in Ozark to make sure that the ribbons are placed correctly, so that law enforcement officers will be able to see them. You can find out more by calling the Christian County Sheriff’s Office at (417) 581-2332.
In Clever, Police Chief Jeff Lofton unveiled a set of window stickers that have been created to warn police officers about medical conditions and other special needs. They are designed for persons who have the potential not to respond to verbal questions or commands from a police officer.
“We’re trying to reach out and do better service for the community in a more informed way,” Clever Police Chief Jeff Lofton said.
The Clever police will offer window decals for autistic persons, drivers with diabetes, deaf or hearing impaired drivers, or persons with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The decals are available to Clever residents by contacting the police department at (417) 743-5109.
In each place where decal programs have been introduced, law enforcement agents are careful to note that they aren’t trying to call unnecessary attention to persons with diseases, disabilities or disorders.
“We’re not trying to brand people, that’s not it. If you choose to do so, we will have (stickers) at the police department and you can come by and grab one of those if you have anybody in your family that’s in your family or in your house that it would apply to,” Lofton said.
We hope law enforcement agents across Christian County are able to uphold Lofton’s word. These window decal programs are likely to prove themselves valuable in potentially dangerous situations, but we hope that the decals do not become labels for persons already struggling with sensitive issues. It should be noted that the sheriff’s program and the Clever Police Department’s programs are both strictly voluntary, and we hope citizens will not be discouraged from seeking out a window decal if they need them.