Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele
NORRISTOWN — The Montgomery County law enforcement community is launching an innovative program that officials say will help drivers with special needs when interacting with police officers.
Dubbed the “Blue Envelope Program”, the initiative will help drivers who have conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, communication problems, dementia, anxiety or other conditions that could impair their ability to communicate. easily during a traffic stop, car accident or other on-road interactions with the police. Officials said the program also educates police about the types of driver reactions they may observe during such traffic stops.
District Attorney Kevin R. Steele and Whitpain Township Police Chief Kenneth Lawson, who is the current president of the Montgomery County Police Chiefs Association, unveiled the program this week.
“Road checks are a high-stress situation for most drivers. The driver sees the police lights come on behind him and he worries about what he did wrong or if he might get a ticket. And that stress might even be amplified in certain populations of drivers,” Steele said. “This program paves the way for as smooth an interaction as possible between the police and people who may not react in the expected way.”
Under the program, when an officer approaches a vehicle during a traffic stop, the driver will be instructed to inform the police officer that they have a “blue envelope” and then hand over the envelope to the agent.
The driver will be asked to place inside the envelope a copy of their driver’s license, registration and proof of car insurance, together with a form containing information on the driver’s special needs and a resource person, if necessary, to facilitate interaction.
“Our police officers are there to protect and serve every person in our jurisdictions, and this program ensures that the police are aware of the status of the blue envelope driver and that the driver knows what to expect and what to do when of a traffic stop. The program will help both parties,” Lawson said.
The Blue Envelope program, which has also been implemented in parts of New Jersey and Connecticut for autistic drivers, was brought to the attention of Upper Gwynedd Police Chief David Duffy by Ben Hartranft, a 25-year-old resident of Montgomery Township with autism spectrum. Mess. The Association of Chiefs of Police enthusiastically supported the idea and added other types of driving conditions beyond ASDs to make it more inclusive, Steele said.
“Montgomery County is a leader in raising awareness for people with autism and others,” Hartranft said. “I’m so excited that the Blue Envelope program is bringing awareness to action so those who work in law enforcement can learn more about people with autism and other conditions.”
The outside of the blue envelope indicates whether the driver is verbal or non-verbal and instructs the driver to notify a police officer that they have a blue envelope when the officer approaches the vehicle.
Driver instructions include: keep your hands on the steering wheel unless instructed otherwise; the officer can turn on a flashlight in your car; and when asked for your vehicle/driver documents, give this envelope to the officer.
Information printed on the envelope for police officers includes: the driver may show signs of anxiety due to bright lights and noises; the driver may have difficulty communicating and may not maintain eye contact; and make it clear to the driver that the stop is over and they can leave.
Officials said the special blue envelopes are available free of charge to all Montgomery County Police Department residents.