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FAIRBANKS (AP) — Alaska lawmakers have voted to advance a bill aimed at improving interactions between law enforcement and people with disabilities.
The House passed the legislation in a unanimous vote on Wednesday. It now goes to the Senate, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Fairbanks Republican Rep. Steve Thompson drafted the bill with help from disability advocacy groups.
"It was a long journey to bring this bill to the floor this day," Thompson said. "This started five years ago in Fairbanks. We had Access Alaska, Wall Busters and some disability groups come to us and say there have been some unfortunate outcomes with encounters between people with hidden disabilities and police officers."
Under the legislation, law enforcement officers would be required to receive training to help them better identify people with disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder and how to respond appropriately.
People with disabilities would also be allowed to get decals on their driver’s licenses notifying officers that they have a disability.
Similar legislation passed the House last year but failed to make it out of a Senate committee.
Art Delaune, Access Alaska service manager and Wall Busters organizer, stressed the importance of the legislation in a letter to the Legislature.
"Without the appropriate amount of disability awareness training for police, an officer might misinterpret actions or intentions of a person with a disability," Delaune wrote. "This misinterpretation may result in an error that could ultimately make the difference between life and death."