Police officers, staff, support professionals and volunteers came together on the 12th March to attend a pioneering conference on neurodiversity in policing. The event, believed to be the first of its kind promoting cognitive diversity within the police service, was jointly organised by the National Police Autism Association and Devon & Cornwall Police, which funded and hosted the event at its HQ in Exeter, Devon.
The event featured guest speakers including naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, who spoke movingly about his experiences as an undiagnosed autistic teenager, and Dr Luke Beardon, Senior Lecturer in autism at Sheffield Hallam University. Delegates also took part in workshops on managing and supporting neurodivergent staff in the workplace, and supporting officers and staff with caring responsibilities.
NPAA founder and chair John Nelson, an officer with British Transport Police, opened the conference. Mr Nelson said: “Back in 2015 when the NPAA launched, neurodiversity was still a bleeding-edge concept in the private sector, and had barely been heard of in the police service. I could never have guessed that nearly five years later, this event would have been possible, or that neurodiversity would have made the impact it already has on the way we as a service approach diversity.”
In another ‘first’, it was announced that Alexis Poole, Assistant Chief Officer (People) with Devon & Cornwall Police had been appointed Neurodiversity Lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the professional body for chief officers. Mr Nelson commented: “This is a fantastic step forward in recognising and embracing a new concept of difference within the police service, and I for one am excited about where this journey will take us.”
The conference was attended by over 150 delegates, including senior officers and HR staff from police forces across the UK. The NPAA hopes to plan a follow-up event in 2021.
Click on the link for a selection of tweets from the conference. More information, including slides and video from the day, is available on the NPAA’s Police Neurodiversity Forum – details on how to register can be found on the Membership page. ∎