TUPELO • A Northeast Mississippi lawmaker has filed legislation that would allow people with communication disorders to affix a special decal on a car tag to ease potential encounters with law enforcement.
State Sen. Nicole Boyd, a Republican from Oxford, told the Daily Journal in a telephone interview that Senate Bill 2764 sets up a voluntary process by which people can apply to get the decal. She said the process would be similar to applying for a handicap tag.
“You would apply for that and provide proof from a licensed psychologist or physician that you have a communications disorder,” Boyd said.
The intent of the bill is help law enforcement officials realize upon seeing the sticker that someone in the vehicle has a communications disorder and may not be able to conventionally communicate with law enforcement.
Boyd said she drafted the bill after a constituent of hers had a child with high-functioning autism who was driving a vehicle and was stopped by police. Boyd said the child became very nervous when he was stopped, but the law enforcement officer recognized the person had a developmental disorder.
“That was really a fortunate situation because the law enforcement officer had a relative that had a disability,” Boyd said.
Boyd said she has spoken with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety about the bill and the conversations have been productive. Under the current version of the bill, law enforcement officers would be required to go through no less than six hours of training on behavioral and mental health issues.
“The behavioral component will train officers to recognize behavioral characteristics that distinguish conditions such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome, or any other mental or medical condition that may present with atypical developmental symptoms which could be perceived by an untrained person as suspicious and which could impede effective communication with a law enforcement officer,” the bill reads.
State Sens. Daniel Sparks and Michael McLendon are co-authors of the legislation. The bill has been double referred to the Transportation and Finance Committees. The deadline for committees to report general bills originating from its own legislative body is March 3.