San Mateo Police Department Launches Project Guardian Program | Local News

The San Mateo Police Department has launched a new voluntary Vulnerable Person Registry for San Mateo residents, giving officers up-to-date information about people with special needs during an emergency call.

The Project Guardian program allows caregivers and loved ones to fill out a form detailing personal information, medical history and a photo distributed to first responders before they arrive on the scene. At a Sept. 16 press conference, San Mateo Police Chief Ed Barberini called the program a significant step forward in better preparing officers and facilitating interactions.

“Our department recognizes that one of our most critical responsibilities is to protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” Barberini said. “We recognize that these vulnerable members may have cognitive impairments, special needs, or developmental issues that require a very specific response from law enforcement.”

The registry will give officers quick access to critical information about a registered person in the event of an emergency, with people with Alzheimer’s disease, autism, developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities available for appear on the register. Registration will require the person’s name, date of birth, physical description, diagnosis, language spoken and a photo. Once the department has entered the information into the system, the applicant will receive a confirmation email. After registration, the department will send a sticker to place at the residence to let officers know that someone living there is registered with Project Guardian. The ministry will maintain a records management system which it will keep confidential unless the information disclosed is required by law.

Barberini noted that people can often be spooked by police, with the information helping officers calm, locate or assist someone unable to communicate effectively in an emergency.

“Providing information will help officers avoid causing undue stress and aggravation by alerting them that the person they are about to meet has a condition that may affect this type of response,” Barberini said.

“Effective policing is about collaboration, and what’s at the heart of this agenda is collaboration,” said Deputy Mayor Diane Papan. “I couldn’t be prouder of the [program] to start up.”

San Mateo resident Gloria Brown worked with Barberini on the program and encouraged more training for officers. She cited a police interaction years ago involving her husband, who suffered from dementia, as a good example of how the new curriculum and more training can help ensure better interactions and resolutions.

“I just want to spread the word so we can tell our families that this program is available,” Brown said. “I wish he was available when my husband had his seizure. At least they would have known this person had cognitive issues, and that’s why he’s taking action.

The incident happened before Barberini took over as chief and was a factor in his work to improve officer training and initiatives dealing with vulnerable members of the community. He called Project Guardian a step in a progression to help vulnerable people.

“I am very proud of the men and women who serve here,” Barberini said. “They are very aware of the needs of those they serve and have become increasingly familiar with recognizing the characteristics or symptoms of someone who may be dealing with something a little out of the ordinary.”

In September 2020, all officers completed the Alzheimer’s Association Education Center’s “Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia” course; recognize the differences between the two and, in May 2022, undergo specialized training in autism spectrum disorders. In December 2021, he became part of the San Mateo County Community Wellness and Crisis Response Pilot Project, in which a mental health clinician works with officers to help people facing a mental health crisis. and provide follow-up assistance.

People can go to cityofsanmateo.org/4657/Project-Guardian for more information on the initiative.

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Ryan H. Bowman