SALINA, Kan.(KSNW) – Amber Pfiefer, a lead dispatcher with the Salina Police Department, paved the way for police response involving those with special needs. Her new program, S.A.Id. (Special Needs Alerts and Identification), helps officers quickly identify and respond during emergency situations.
Pfiefer has answered many emergency calls over her 12 year career, but there’s one call a few years back she’ll never forget.
“We responded to a call with a citizen with special needs,” Pfiefer said . “At that time we didn’t realize he was special needs and he was being just non-communicative, not responding to what the officers were wishing him to do.”
Pfiefer said police ended up tazing the man, something she feels could have been avoided.
“And maybe that would have de-escalated that situation if we would have known as we were responding [ that he had special needs], and would have had a different outcome,” Pfiefer said.
As a mother with a 7-year-old Autistic son, it pulled at her heart strings.
“If there was ever a time that law enforcement would be interacting with him, could the same thing happen, or how would we know the information about him,” Pfiefer said.
This all sparked her interest in finding a way the department could be proactive in these situations. For the past two years, she helped spearhead the departments efforts to create the S.A.Id. program. It officially launched Thursday.
The program provides local first responders with the resources to identify and assist individuals with special needs who find themselves in emergency situations. Parents, caregivers, or individuals can fill out a form listing the person’s condition and needs. It’s then stored in the department’s communication database. If a call comes in to dispatch involving someone in the program, a S.A.Id alert icon will pop up on their profile and officers can reference it quickly.
“When the person can’t provide the information we would already have it,” Pfiefer said .
One aspect Pfiefer likes about the system is that it allows the public to list triggers the person may have.
“So when it comes to my son, he really loves Christmas and Santa, and Christmas lights,” said Pfiefer. “So that could be something the officers could mention to de-escalate what might be going on.
Pfiefer said they received at least 20 forms within the first day the of program. The program serves Salina and Saline County.
You can fill out the form in person at the Salina Police Department or online here.