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Buckeye Police Roll Out Voluntary Registry For At-Risk Disabled People

After a Buckeye incident involving an autistic teen and a police officer this summer, the department is rolling out a registry to help them keep track of those in the community with mental disabilities.

The first thing Buckeye Police Chief Larry Hall wants you to know is this registry is voluntary.

“It’s not just geared towards individuals with autism and we’re not looking to put labels on people,” Hall said.

Residents can sign up for any family members with a mental disability, like elderly people with dementia.

Hall said this can be a crucial tool when the heat climbs past 100 degrees and people go missing.

“If we do have someone that leaves on foot and we automatically have their picture uploaded in our system, we can start the search immediately," he said. "We don’t have to wait, we don’t have to make contact. Especially in the summer months, time is of the essence.”

Several people have already signed up for the registry.

The registry comes after an incident in which an autistic teen was grabbed by a police officer who mistook him for a drug user.

Hall says a friend with a child on the autism spectrum supported the idea.

“Having that information in the system is key," he said, using his friend's child as an example. "The fact that he’s non-verbal, he’s not going to be able to communicate with us. So if we have that information in a timely manner and we have that information available, then we know that by yelling at him, ‘Hey stop!’ we know he’s not going to respond to that.”

Casey Kuhn reports from KJZZ’s West Valley Bureau. She comes to Phoenix from the Midwest, where she graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.Kuhn got her start in radio reporting in college at the community public radio station, WFHB. She volunteered there as a reporter and worked her way up to host the half-hour, daily news show. After graduating, she became a multimedia reporter at Bloomington's NPR/PBS station WFIU/WTIU, where she reported for and produced a weekly statewide news television show.Since moving to the Southwest, she’s discovered a passion for reporting on rural issues, agriculture and the diverse people who make up her community.Kuhn was born and raised in Cincinnati, where her parents instilled in her a love of baseball, dogs and good German beer. You’ll most likely find her around the Valley with a glass of prosecco in one hand and a graphic novel in the other.She finds the most compelling stories come from KJZZ’s listeners.