Policing with a disability

This week we hear from PC Rees, a Police Now participant with Hertfordshire Constabulary. PC Rees shares his experience as an officer with a hidden disability:

“My name is PC Oliver Rees and I was born three months prematurely, weighing 2 lbs. I have a form of mild Cerebral Palsy called Muscular Diplegia, because my brain was starved of oxygen for some time during my birth. Muscular Diplegia affects all the muscles in my body and essentially means that it takes me twice as much muscle power to do things than those without a disability. At this stage in my life, it particularly effects my fine motor muscles. I always wanted to join the police but was told throughout my childhood that I could never be a police officer.

I’m pleased to say I joined the constabulary in 2017 and I am proud to be part of the Police Now programme, and the first Police Now cohort in Hertfordshire. I currently work for the Safer Neighbourhood Team in Holywell, West Watford.

I was born with my disability and will have it for my entire life, however I have worked extremely hard to get to where I am today. I wore double leg casts twice a year to straighten my legs when I was younger, and am now virtually completely able-bodied, going to the gym daily.

I am lucky to say that even though I do have Muscular Diplegia, which affects all my muscles in my body, it only affects my day-to-day policing life in a few ways. Firstly my muscles get tired more easily which leads to stiffness, but as I am used to this my resilience is very high. My feet will also occasionally ‘turn in’ when I am walking, more so when I am tired. My writing is affected, as my Diplegia has an impact on my fine motor muscles leading to poor, small and often illegible writing. To combat this, I have been issued with a work laptop to aid with my paperwork.

If you met me, you would not believe I have a disability by looking at me. It means that my disability it somewhat ‘hidden’ and people often make comments to me if they notice anything different about me. For example, why was I issued a laptop before my colleagues? It’s not obvious looking at me that I am disabled and sometimes, explaining this to the able-bodied can be challenging.

Although I have experienced some issues in the workplace, usually because it looks to someone that I’m getting ‘special treatment’, it is few and far between. I must commend the force support networks, from the HDCN (Herts Disability and Carers Network) to well-being champions and especially my Sergeants and Inspectors. Whenever I have had an issue or needed to talk about anything, they have been there to support me and made sure any issues are resolved. The support I have received from my team has been fantastic.

When I was first applying to become a police officer I remember being incredibly worried about declaring my disability, as I thought it might affect my chances of success. This, I cannot stress enough, couldn’t be further from the truth, but I feel it is an easy thought to slip into when you have a disability.

I am proud to be an officer with a disability. I feel that growing up and living through adversity teaches you how to be strong and how to get through almost anything that stands in your way. I am also aware that there are bound to be many others out there who have a disability, but are too worried to be open about it through fear of stigma. I understand this, I really do, but implore you to come forward as there are so many avenues of support out there to help you through any issues you face.

I am always happy to help anyone with queries or questions about working in the police with a disability. Please get in touch via hello@policenow.org.uk and I’ll do my best to answer or direct you to the right place.

All that is left to say is thank you for taking the time to read my story”.

This blog was originally published on the Hertfordshire Constabulary intranet.