Category Archives: News

University of Nottingham launches Autism Custody Toolkit

New guides and resources will assist police custody staff dealing with autistic detainees

The University of Nottingham has worked with the police service, support staff and autistic volunteers to create a toolkit to help police custody staff deal with detainees affected by autism, and other conditions that affect sensory processing and communication.

The toolkit was launched on the 10th January at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham. The event was attended by NPAA representatives, and staff and volunteers involved in the project.

Dr Chloe Holloway, from the University of Nottingham’s School of Law, led the research. She said people with autism can find the custody environment so stressful that they may waive their legal rights to a lawyer or sign an admission of guilt to get out. 

Dr Chloe Holloway introducing the new police custody training video, shown at the launch event

Dr Holloway added: “My in-depth interviews with autistic people who had been taken into police custody found they were confused about what was happening to them during their arrest due to difficulties with communication and a lack of accessible information.

“The conditions of the custody suite – bright lights and loud noise – also made them very anxious. 

“The materials developed for the toolkit are based on my findings and they have been designed to meet the priorities of both staff and those in detention.”

A new training video for police custody staff, featuring autistic actors, was shown at the launch. The video and toolkit will be made available to police forces across the UK.

As part of the project, cells designed for autistic prisoners will be built at a new £17 million police custody suite in Radford Road, Nottingham – the first of its kind in the country. The new facility is due to open by Christmas 2020.

The NPAA would like to thank Dr Holloway, The University of Nottingham and the Nottingham Autism Police Partnership for including us in this project. ∎

Using an app to contact the 999 service in an emergency

Many people on the autism spectrum find talking on the phone difficult and prefer to communicate via email, text or social media. But what if you needed to call 999 in an emergency?

Relay UK is a service provided by BT that allows you to use an app or textphone to make phone calls via a confidential Relay Assistant operator. The service supports calls to the UK 999 emergency services (police, ambulance, fire & rescue and coastguard) and is available for anyone who finds making a voice call difficult, including members of the autistic community. To use the app for the first time, you’ll need to set it up and link your phone number – we recommend you do it now so it’s ready to use when you need it.

For more information on how the service works and to download the app for your device, visit the Relay UK website.

(This article has been updated – it originally linked to emergencySMS, which allows the emergency services to be contacted by text message. Relay UK still provide this facility, but advise that it should be used only if there is no other option, as it takes longer than a standard voice 999 call or the Relay 18000 service.)

NPAA Churchill Fellow releases study of autism training in international policing

In 2018, NPAA Vice-Chair and Police Scotland coordinator Claire Masterton was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study autism training and education in police forces in the United States and Europe. Claire travelled across the US, visiting police departments in Minnesota, Massachusetts and Maine, and crossed the Atlantic to look at projects being run with the police forces of Sweden, Denmark and The Netherlands.

Following her fact-finding mission, Claire has a produced a report on her findings, Autism and Policing: Best Practice in Education and Training. Click on the link to download a PDF, and click here to read Claire’s blog on her trip.

At the time Claire applied for her Churchill Fellowship, the National Police Autism Association was barely two years old, and autism awareness in policing was a largely unexplored area of research. We would like to extend our thanks to Claire for this groundbreaking piece of work, to the police departments and staff who kindly offered their assistance with the project, and to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for making it possible. ∎

Claire Masterton with Officer Rob Zink and Chief Todd Axtell of the Saint Paul Police Department, Minnesota