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MADISON COUNTY, Ill. – The sheriff’s department in Madison County is using a P.I.N. Sticker Program (potentially impaired or non-verbal person) to let law enforcement, firefighters and EMS partners know that someone may have a communication barrier, and if authorities try to talk with them, they may be non-verbal.

 “Any tool that we can have in our arsenal that allows us to seamlessly communicate effectively, especially in times of crisis, going into an incident or a situation, already knowing that there’s a communication barrier, we can prepare for that, we can prepare ourselves to effectively communicate,” Madison County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Kristopher Tharp said.

Those with communication barriers are asked to pick up a free sticker and place it on the back window of their car and on their front door, or front window glass.

Residents with communication barriers or their caretakers can get a free sticker at Madison County Sheriff’s Office, TRIAD, or St. John’s Community Care, which helped fund the project.

The stickers are color-coded, but only police officers and first responders know what each color represents.

“We aren’t releasing what the colors represent,” Tharp said. “The only ones that know that are the participants and the first responders, that to ensure that we don’t enhance the participants’ vulnerability to victimization.”

The same color scheme is used in other jurisdictions.

“Police officers and first responders over in Missouri should recognize if they encounter someone from Madison county that’s involved in our program,” he added.

Tharp is encouraging people to spread the word to those who would benefit from this program.

“We all have someone close to us that’s affected by one of the potential communication barriers,” he said. 

Tharp said he knows firsthand how beneficial these stickers can be. 

“I made a traffic stop and when I encountered the driver, there was a lot of activity,” he said.

“The hands were going everywhere, and as a police officer, that’s always a concern. A traffic stop can be one of the most dangerous encounters that an officer can experience, but what was really going on, was the person was hearing impaired and they were trying to sign.”

Being a young police officer at that time, Tharp said he didn’t immediately recognize what they were trying to do.

“For a short period of time, I was alarmed because I didn’t recognize the communication barrier,” he said. “Now, had the sticker program been in place back then, I would have been alerted.”

The county has a database of participants and local police agencies will be notified if someone who gets a sticker lives within another agency’s jurisdiction.

Madison County modeled their sticker program off St. Louis County Police’s program. Hazelwood, St. Charles County and O’Fallon, Missouri, police departments also provide these stickers, to name a few.