MIAMI COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - Last June, a police officer used a stun gun on an elderly man with Alzheimer's in a Miami County nursing home. Attention from the incident inspired State Representative Bill Friend to propose a bill that would require law enforcement officers to be trained on how to interact with people who have Alzheimer's or dementia.
"Police, if they should happen to be there, need to know how to respond, respond quickly, respond carefully, and with compassion. So, I think that training would be helpful," Friend explained.
But Sgt. Andy Cree with the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office said deputies are already trained on how to respond to people who may be mentally ill or people with disabilities. He said deputies have to assess every situation. He said whether a person is mentally ill, has Alzheimer's, or is intoxicated, deputies have to put safety first.
"A lot of it is, what is reasonable? Mainly, a threat to the officer. Is the person actively resisting or fighting? The pace of the events, the last is the severity of the crime," said Cree.
Cree said deputies have to analyze a person's behavior then determine whether or not any kind of force is needed.
"Things like autism or Alzheimer's may be a contributing factor, it's still a very dangerous situation," Cree explained.
Cree said he understands legislators are trying to do the right thing, but he wonders how this new bill will actually fit with real world circumstances on the street.
The bill had its first reading in the House earlier this week and was sent to the Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety.
Sgt. Cree said the Sheriff's Office actually has a program that tracks people with Alzheimer's or dementia. It's called Project Life Savers. People with Alzheimer's, head injuries, or autism wear a tracking device on their wrist. If they get lost or go missing, the sheriff's office can find them.
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