Police department starts use of Vitals app

App alerts first responders of disabilities


Abby Prestholdt

Photo illustration by Abby Prestholdt. The new app Vitals allows students to alert first responders with important information about themselves.

Talia Lissauer, Marta Hill, and Isabel Kjaer

Vitals, an app that notifies first responders of important information, is now being used by the St. Louis Park Police Department, according to officer Pamela Gronski. She said St. Louis Park has joined the app to put an emphasis on the police to citizen relationship in the community.

“In St. Louis Park we think it’s very important that we have positive interactions with our community, versus negative interactions when they really just need help,” Gronski said. 

The app will offer better communication between users and first responders, said junior Keely Bernstein.

“I think it’s a good idea because it’s going to create more of an understanding between police officers and the people who are offering the information and its creating more opportunities for them to just better understand people,” Bernstein said.

According to Gronski, Vitals notifies first responders with crucial information inputted by the user when they are within 80 feet of the first responder.

“The goal is to help provide law enforcement information. With certain disabilities, they may be exhibiting behaviors that we feel are dangerous, even though it’s not dangerous. That’s just part of their disability,” Gronski said. “If we have that information ahead of time, we can adapt our response, or how we interact with that individual. The goal is really to diminish force interactions with people that really just need help.”

Vitals allows users to make a profile and input information such as a nickname, height, weight, conditions, de-escalation techniques, behavior triggers and medications. The app costs $4.99 a month, and users have the option to purchase a separate beacon, or use the app as the locator. 

Patrol Lieutenant Mike Garland said even though the police department has to pay a fee to use it, the possible effects are worth it.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us. Our view on it is if it leads to even one resolution to a call involving mental health or communication difficulty, and it allows us to resolve it safely and get the person even more quickly the help that they need. That’s worth it to us,” Garland said. 

According to Gronski, the Vitals app is helpful in the community but will be very useful to her position in the school.

“I particularly am excited to let the students in St. Louis Park know about this because I’m in the school quite a bit. If I do need to interact with them, it’d be nice to know the best way to interact with them,” Gronski said.

According to Garland, when the police department receives calls about people who aren’t responding to passersby, the Vital app can help.

“It could reduce the chances that we’d have to use control techniques or force. It keeps everybody safe and it puts an emphasis on effective communication which is always good for everyone,” Garland said. 

Bernstein said the approach offers take to intervene with students will be improved.

Our first goal is to be safe, and then keep the person that we’re interacting with safe as well, if we are given the tools ahead of time we can adapt how we respond to people”

— Mike Garland

“I think it would allow for people to not be punished for things that they can’t control and discipline would be provided in better ways,” Bernstein said.

Gronski said the information provided by Vitals has the potential to help a first responder understand the situation better.

“Some of the behaviors they may be exhibiting have nothing to do with criminal activity where, you know, if somebody is not listening to commands, it might be something from their disability, you know, something that’s coming from their disability,” Gronski said. 

According to Gronski, the app allows the first responders to keep their interactions with people in the community safe.

“Our first goal is to be safe, and then keep the person that we’re interacting with safe as well, if we are given the tools ahead of time we can adapt how we respond to people,” Gronski said. 

Garland said the number of community members that are joining the app is increasing.

“There’s just a small but growing number of people in the community that are subscribers. And as we get more and more of those we will see the likelihood that will have to use that information more often, because the more often that we encounter people that subscribe,” Garland said.