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Police Interactions and Disability Safety Tips for Virginia Residents.

If a family calls 9-1-1 due to distress caused by someone with a disability or mental illness, it is very strongly recommended that they request an officer who has had “crisis intervention training” (CIT). 


Fairfax County police began wearing body cameras in the spring or summer of 2017. This will be most helpful in the training of our police officers and first responders. If the responding officer has a body camera, the person who called 9-1-1 can request that it be turned off, if it is viewed that a crime is not being committed.


If video is taken by a police officer with a body camera is viewed as a “noncriminal incident” the footage will likely only be stored for only 30 days.  The reason that this is important is that police body camera footage can be subject to a FOIA request, and can be used for any number of nefarious activities by someone who requests it. (such as a disgruntled neighbor or family member). 

If it is requested, the chief of police has the discretion to NOT release that footage if it provides “identifying information of a personal, medical, or financial nature” where disclosure “would jeopardize the safety or privacy of any person” (VA Code Ann. 2.2-3706B).  If the 9-1-1 call is due to distress caused by someone with a disability or mental illness, it is the current position by the police that the footage would not be subject to release per a FOIA request on a case-by-case basis.  Again though, this is ONLY true if a crime has NOT been committed and the person is NOT arrested. If those things happened, the footage may have to be released per a FOIA request and is stored for a number of years.


If an arrest occurs, appropriate legal resources can be found on the ARC's Justice Advocacy Guide at

  1. To provide disclosure to the police before a possible incident may occur, it is very strongly recommend that a 9-1-1 flag sheet be taken to a first responder office; so that the home can be designated as a “location of interest” and appropriate information can be placed in the 9-1-1 system for that address.  A recommended 9-1-1 flag sheet handout format can be found at  A sample 9-1-1 flag sheet can be found at

  2. Another way to provide disclosure would be for the individual or parent to carry and provide a personal autism safety card.  A sample personal autism safety card can be found at

  3. More disability and safety resources are at the Autism Spectrum Disorders and Public Safety Considerations References and Websites at, or from the Autism Society of Northern Virginia at, or from POAC-NoVA at and

  4. An additional “Top Ten Disability Safety Tips” for Virginia residents is at

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