Vulnerable Person Registry Now Available
The Vulnerable Person Registry allows Toronto residents to share information such as a photo, description, and information about medical conditions as well as to make them aware of specific behaviours officers might encounter, recommended de-escalation strategies and contact information for additional support.
“This allows the public to work with police to keep their loved ones safe. It is a great example of a community partnership that gives us the best information in a timely fashion,” Chief Saunders said. “When officers are given better information they get better outcomes.”
Dispatchers, police officers and other police support personnel will be able to access this information when they are interacting with the vulnerable person to have a better understanding of the causes for behaviours and provides officers with information about how to best assist the person.
Sgt. Paul Jones, who led the development of the Registry, says it was originally intended to help find missing persons, such as people who have wandered with dementia.
“There are many more uses for the Registry because it allows us to have information on people who are non-verbal or will have trouble expressing themselves to a police officer during a crisis,” said Jones. “A lot of our officers have expressed their excitement over this because it will allow them better information before they even arrive at a scene.”
Jones said every case is different and there is no one way to treat someone with a cognitive disability or mental health issue.
“It’s often very specific information – that someone responds well to certain information like their favourite sports team, or negatively to other topics of conversation,” says Jones. “Just having officers be able to ease into a conversation and find common ground right away can result in positive outcomes.”
Jones said the police worked with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario office to ensure privacy is respected in the collection of data and those who register can update or delete information as they see fit. Similar registries also exist with other police services in the Greater Toronto Area.
Autism Speaks Canada National Program Director Esther Rhee said the Registry empowers people.
“We’re excited about this registry because it is a collaborative approach to optimizing experiences and encounters with police,” said Rhee, who also co-chairs the Toronto Police Disabilities Consultative Committee. “It’s an empowering and proactive way to share important information with police officers and an instrumental tool to increase safety and well-being. The committee looks forward to working with TPS to ensure the community know about this vital resource.”
She says autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning each individual is different.
“Because of this, it’s difficult to have a cookie-cutter approach to support. As autism is often referred to as an invisible disability, it’s important that officers have access to information related to both understanding autism spectrum disorder as well as the unique characteristics of the individual to understand how to best engage.”
Constable Jason Peddle, the Vulnerable Person Coordinator for the Toronto Police Service, says family members of people with intellectual disabilities or people with mental illness contact him often about the Registry.
“They want access to this type of service,” Peddle says. “They want police to know this information about the behaviours because they are often misunderstood.”
He recalls one recurring instance from his days on patrol where police were called for a man who stripped his clothes and was running from his home.
“In this case, he was no harm to anyone, but this was the type of behaviour he displayed after having a seizure,” says Peddle. “The officers in the area became familiar with this man after several calls and jogged beside him until they could return him home safely.”
Peddle says people who have adult children with limited cognitive capacity are often concerned about their children because their behaviours might be dangerous to themselves or misunderstood.
In one instance a mother was calling because her adult son, who has the cognitive capacity of a five-year-old and is known to get into open cars and hide in the back seat.
“The police would benefit from having information like this to find him if he is missing as well if they are called,” Peddle says. “It’s just another tool for us to better serve the community.”
The public can register online by visiting tps.ca/services and clicking on Vulnerable Persons Registry or by visiting the webpage directly:Vulnerable Persons Registry