A national police support group has achieved its goal of recruiting champions in every UK police force, a little over 18 months since its launch.
The National Autism Police Association was launched in October 2015 by John Nelson, the NPAA’s Chair and a frontline officer with Thames Valley Police. The NPAA supports police officers, staff and volunteers affected by autism and other ‘neurodiverse’ conditions such as dyspraxia and ADHD, and promotes best practices for working with members of public.
The Association has sought to recruit one or more volunteers in each Force to act as a point of contact for anyone needing advice or signposting around autism and related conditions. With the recent additions of Suffolk and Wiltshire, the NPAA’s team of coordinators now cover all of the UK’s 48 police forces. Local champions are drawn from all ranks and roles, with the team currently including PCSOs through to a Superintendent.
The fact that there are police officers with Asperger syndrome (a form of autism without intellectual impairment) may come as a surprise to the public. Speaking about the Association’s aims, Mr. Nelson said: “There is a growing realisation in the private sector that people with neurodiverse conditions such as autism and dyslexia can bring unique creative and problem-solving skills to the workplace. We believe that the police service needs to embrace neurodiversity in order to meet the challenges of policing in the 21st century, and we are committed to empowering neurodiverse police officers and staff to achieve their full potential.”
The NPAA is supported by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, The College of Policing, the Police Federation of England & Wales, and the National Autistic Society. The Association regularly tweets from “Police Autism UK” (@npaa_uk) on policing and diversity-related topics.