Former Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau announced Tuesday that she will join Vitals, a company that offers a smartphone app designed to help police officers deal with vulnerable people.
Harteau was named the company’s chief public safety strategist and charged with overseeing the app’s rollout in Minnesota. Vitals officials said it is already being used by officers in St. Paul, Roseville, New Brighton and the Three Rivers Park District, with other departments expected to follow in coming months.
“The VitalsApp is a game changer and will save lives,” Harteau wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday. “I am thrilled to be a part of the team!”
The app is aimed at various groups who have “invisible disabilities” and can’t always communicate effectively in potentially dangerous encounters with police, according to company officials. That includes people with autism spectrum disorder, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, other mental health issues, diabetes and seizure disorders.
“She will also introduce Vitals to cities across the country,” said a company statement posted on its website. Another aspect of her role will be the creation of best practices for police department onboarding, trainings and policy development.”
E-mails obtained through a data practices request show that she was approached about police jobs in Portland, Ore. and Dallas shortly before her resignation, but Harteau hadn’t publicly discuss her future plans since.
“We are thrilled to have someone with Janee’s passion, expertise and proven track record join our team. She has dedicated a career to protecting and saving lives and now she will continue that critical work with our team,” says the company’s co-founder and chief digital officer, Nick Tietz in a statement.
Last month, St. Paul became the first department in the state to furnish its first responders and officers with the app, which contains data about a person’s diagnosis, behavior triggers, medications and caregiver contact information, as well as suggested ways to calm the person.
Officers receive an alert when they’re within 30-80 feet of someone who has a profile on file.
Vitals has raised privacy and security concerns among some disability advocates, but the company said participation is completely voluntary and that officers won’t be able to track or search for individuals outside of the app’s range.
During her 4 1/2-year tenure as chief, Harteau oversaw several mental health-related initiatives, including a co-responder pilot program that paired officers with a mental health specialists on emergency calls involving people in the throes of crisis.
Staff writer Erin Adler and Adam Belz contributed to this report.