State bill could make invisible disabilities part of driver’s profile

State bill could make invisible disabilities part of driver’s profile

Police officers rarely have all of the information when they’re called to a scene. A bill at the Wisconsin State Capitol could give those officers a better idea of how they should respond.

When officers run driver’s licenses or plates, they see information about the person’s vehicle, driving history and criminal record, but this bill could give them information about a person’s behavior.

Under it, people with an invisible disability would have the option to voluntarily disclose that disability by filling out a form at the DMV. An invisible disability could be anything from chronic pain to autism to a sleep disorder.

It would become part of their driver profile so when an officer anywhere in the state runs a plate or license, they’re given some constructive knowledge that this person might be more anxious, agitated or has difficulty communicating.

Madison police Chief Mike Koval said more information is always beneficial to officers.

“It begins sort of a common denominator, a frame work of ‘we are disclosing information about why you’re being pulled over,’ and similarly, you’re trying to give some insight into why you might have a heightened level of apprehension,” Koval said.

Madison police officers already go through training to deal with higher stress situations. They get among the state’s most hours in terms of crisis intervention and learning how to defuse and diagnose a situation. The department also has its own mental health unit.

Between new software, application forms and additional time people would spend at a DMV counter, the bill would cost the state about $200,000 to implement.

The Assembly’s Committee on Mental Health will hold an executive session on the bill Tuesday morning. If passed, it would go to the full Assembly for consideration.

Mental health advocates are closely following this measure, but haven’t registered for or against it yet.