MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A St. Paul company whose app helps police interact with those with emotional and intellectual disorders is experiencing rapid growth.
Vitals just hired former Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau to make sure its technology best serves police officers. The app allows users to create profiles on a smartphone that describes the nature of their disability.
A month after its rollout, the app is attracting interest from around the nation and even other countries. In a St. Paul loft, developers of the app are fine tuning their product.
Nick Tietz, chief digital officer of the company, used an example profile to show how the app works:
“Charlotte” has dementia. An officer could see her profile from the law enforcement version of the app, which contains critical information about her behavioral triggers and useful de-escalation techniques. The officer could also show Charlotte a video message from her daughter:
“Hi, Mom, this is your daughter Jennifer,” the example message says. “The people who are with you are there to keep you safe and bring you home.”
The app is already being used by police in St. Paul, Roseville, New Brighton and Three Rivers Park. The small St. Paul Company is getting calls from police departments and consumers in the U.K., Canada and across the country.
“We’ve got some parents and some advocates calling, asking, ‘When are you going to come here?'” Tietz said. “It’s been amazing.”
Harteau says the tool could save lives by allowing police to understand that a nonresponsive or combative person has a disability.
“It’s critical,” she said. “You will get information right then and there, at their fingertips — the person’s name, things that may help de-escalate them, calm them down.”
Vulnerable individuals who don’t have a smartphone can use a $20 beacon, which can be clipped to a backpack, belt or clothing.
The Vitals App costs $5 for a law enforcement officer to download. For those with disabilities, it’s just under $10 a month.