“I was recently researching a surprising increase in 999 calls within my area, as part of my work as a neighbourhood police officer in Staffordshire. I realised that the vast majority of these calls were coming from one individual, who appeared to calling repeatedly for non-emergency situations.
After meeting the individual and doing some background research, I realised she was on the autism spectrum. I also realised that some of our usual communicative techniques were not working with her.
The case prompted me to think about police awareness of autism and the way we communicate with members of the public who are on the autism spectrum. I decided to conduct a survey with colleagues regarding their training and awareness of people with autism and realised that further training in the area could be really beneficial to the force. I conducted research on how to best to do this, looking at the College of Policing problem-solving techniques as well as talking with universities and researching custody processes for individuals with specific needs.
I then liaised with relevant partner agencies to create a trigger plan and ensure that in future the most effective intervention was actioned. We also created a working group to meet monthly and designed a ‘pocket guide’ for frontline officers with information and guidance on working with people on the autism spectrum.
We are also working on some long-term changes to better support the community and adapt to individuals’ needs. For example, we are amending our ‘vulnerability toolkit’ to display a section dedicated solely to autism. The vulnerability toolkit is a system we use which helps us link up with third party organisations to offer specific support to those who may need it.
We have also established a focus group to help implement force-wide training and are investigating ways we can create and roll-out a more high-specification training package, with officers assigned specifically to support on cases involving autistic members of the public.
The individual in my neighbourhood who was misusing the 999 service was placed onto a trigger plan and is now accessing services which are far more suited to her specific needs. As a result, the call numbers in my area have dropped and I believe her relationship with the local police force has improved too.
It’s work like this which really makes me enjoy my job, it goes to show the impact neighbourhood policing can have and how we can work collaboratively to improve and represent the communities we serve. It’s about really making a difference to local communities and addressing the needs which sometimes go unnoticed, no matter how small. You get to understand the community as well as engage with different people from different backgrounds. I have learnt much more culturally being a neighbourhood officer than I think I would in another job, and I get time to sit with vulnerable people who need five minutes to engage in conversation and to tell someone about their day. These are things that make real differences.”
Police Constable Millward | Neighbourhood police officer
National Graduate Leadership Programme participant