ST. PAUL -- St. Paul police are testing a phone app that aims to de-escalate encounters with those who have disabilities not easily visible, such as autism or mental illness.

Twin Cities application developer VariAware has created the Vulnerable Individuals Technology Assisted Location Service program.

App users or their caregivers can upload personal information onto the app, including medical conditions individuals have, treatments they might need or tips on how to calm them down. Users are then given a small transmitter that sends signals to nearby phones.

Officers can activate the app and will be alerted whenever they come within about 30 feet of someone with a transmitter. It allows them to access information about individuals which can help facilitate safer interactions.

The department has signed a two-year contract with VariAware.

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