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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Bill would create police training on dealing with people who have Alzheimer's

 State Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, presented SB 208 to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday.
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Florida Legislature via livestream
State Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, presented SB 208 to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday.

The optional online course would teach how to interact with people who have dementia, recognize behaviors, use alternatives to physical restraints and spot signs of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

A bill creating an Alzheimer's training program for law enforcement officers is making its way through the Florida Senate.

The training in SB 208 would be optional and count toward continuing education.

The online course would be created by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in consultation with the Department of Elder Affairs. It would teach police officers how to interact and communicate with people who have dementia and how to recognize their behaviors. Officers would learn to use alternatives to physical restraints and spot the signs of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

At a hearing Tuesday of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, bill co-sponsor Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, responded to questions on why the course isn't mandatory.

"I think this is a great step in the right direction, looking at ways that we can ensure that we are providing additional training opportunities, but also not tying the hands of our law enforcement officials who already have a lot on their plate," Burgess said.

Senior public policy analyst Olivia Babis Keller of Disability Rights Florida spoke in favor of the bill. She supported the idea of making the course mandatory and urged input from families affected by Alzheimer's.

"[W]e have a couple training bills this session that are a great first step, but we don't want this to be the last step," she said. "There does need to be more."

The committed approved the bill without opposition.

The prevalence of Alzheimer's is increasing in Florida. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that by next year 720,000 Florida seniors will have the disease.

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Joe Byrnes