Local law enforcement officials have embraced recently enacted Senate Bill 976, more commonly known as the "Samuel Allen Law."
The new provision allows persons with communication impediments relating to autism, Asperger syndrome, deafness, hearing impairment, PTSD, Parkinson’s Disease, mild intellectual disabilities and more the option to disclose this information when registering vehicles and licenses through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. The diagnosis of the individual would then be placed privately in the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (TLETS) in order to alert officers of the conditions prior to approaching a vehicle for a traffic stop.
Cedar Park Chief of Police Sean Mannix said Senate Bill 976 is another tool to help ensure effective communication and interaction between police officers and people that may struggle with effective verbal communication due to a disability or health condition.
“If a member of our community, or a loved one, has a physical or medical condition that would impede effective communication between themselves and law enforcement officials, they may optionally apply to note this information on their vehicle registration, making it available to any peace officer initiating a traffic stop,” Mannix said.
Leander Chief of Police Greg Minton said it is important that people know this is an option for themselves or their loved ones.
“It’s available, and it’s available now,” Minton said. “It’s not something that they need to wait to do. They can go in today to get those things updated immediately.”
Minton said the Leander Police Department is going to implement training in order to help officers understand the ‘Samuel Allen Law.’
“We want to make sure we are all 100 percent aware of the license restrictions regarding the Samuel Allen Law and what to expect when we do stop a vehicle and we’re given notification that this person has a communication challenge,” Minton said. “Right now, an officer without that training would not know what that driving restriction would be.”
Minton said it is very important for families to advocate for themselves and loved ones who may have a communication challenge. He said he thinks the Samuel Allen Law will be a great help, both to police officers and individuals or families who deal with these issues.
“It gives the officer a definite advantage when they know that they are going to be communicating with somebody with a communication challenge to take a different approach,” he said.