UNION PARISH, La (KTVE/KARD) — The friend of Union Parish Sheriff’s Office allows community members to stick a sticker on their car or house window to alert first responders that they could encounter someone with special needs. This helps the officer know how they should handle the situation.

Dusty Gates, Union Parish Sheriff, explains the importance of this program. “Over the years, we’ve seen that law enforcement has encountered these types of people with special needs numerous times, and a lot of times the communication is not there, so one thing that we wanted to try to do is put this program in place so that if a law enforcement officer, a deputy sheriff, or a city police officer encounters someone with special needs, they will be able to identify that person prior to actually making contact with them.

Jerome Wilson, a parent utilizing the program, expressed how it impacts his family and his son Hudson, who has autism. “It gives us comfort knowing that when we get pulled over, if he starts acting up, he’s going to be safe. A lot of times, if you have an autistic kid, his routine is what makes him calm. So, let’s say she’s going to Ruston to take him to therapy, and she gets pulled over. He might freak out because mom stopped on the side of the road, and that isn’t routine. If the deputy sees that sticker on the back of the car, he understands, without my wife or me having to try to explain.”

Avery Wilson, the mother of Hudson, hopes one day the program will spread statewide. “It’s so huge for Union Parish to have this now; not every parish has it, so I’m so grateful to the sheriff for putting this in place. I would like to see it in the whole state and the whole nation.”