Hate crime: a personal experience

As part of LGBT+ History Month, Wiltshire Police posted a blog by crime recorder and NPAA Coordinator Dave Grainger on his personal experience as a victim of a homophobic assault. To mark the beginning of Pride Month 2022, Dave has kindly allowed us to share his article to raise awareness of hate crime

LGBTQ+ month for me is a time to reflect and for me personally to reflect on inclusion and acceptance of people’s differences.

Dave Grainger

Before I joined Wiltshire Police, my involvement with the police was only around my previous job of reporting and dealing with shoplifters and burglaries. That was until a night out in Swindon – a night out that changed my life and left me with memories that will live with me forever.

I had left the Mailcoach in Swindon, a gay friendly venue, and was heading up through Regent Street to the Pink Rooms, a former gay nightclub. As I walked alone the short distance between the two venues, four men were walking in the same direction. As they came to my left side they asked where I was going, and I had no reason to lie and said “The Pink Rooms”. I can remember one of the men asking if I was gay and again since coming out I never thought about saying no so I said yes – and it was then my night changed.

The four men quickly circled me, my glasses were removed, the blows started to my face and body. I ended up on the floor where I was kicked, and after my wallet was taken, they ran away. Blood pouring from my busted lip, I made it to the Pink Rooms where an ambulance and the police were called. When I arrived at Great Western Hospital the police officers were fantastic, and after being swabbed the hospital looked after me very well.

Unfortunately, the suspects were never found. The cut lip and bruises disappeared, but the memory of that night lives on and for me the memories came flooding back whilst alone in Bath walking to my team’s Christmas meal last year. Unknown to me, many of my team had met up before the meal for cocktails – as I walked alone, I was very conscious of my surroundings, and although the anxiety was there, I made it to the venue, so a success in a way for me.

My experience is very personal, but sadly is not uncommon where being who you are can result in physical attacks, and in some countries is still punishable by death. Also, sadly many people don’t have the time or inclination to learn and accept others, which is why I feel LGBTQ+ month is very important. I hope that those who feel they don’t need to know or understand open themselves to other people’s differences and grow their inclusivity. ∎

This blog was originally published on LinkedIn by Wiltshire Police – it is reproduced here with kind permission of the author

Read more about hate crime and how you can report it at report-it.org.uk

Counter-terrorist police launch neurodivergent internship scheme

Investigator Tal Stein shares details of the Supported Internship Scheme for neurodivergent young people piloted within the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU)

More than six years ago, my son received a diagnosis of autism and ADHD. Since then, I’ve done a lot of research and learning, as well as volunteering and fundraising for a local charity, SPACE, that helped us when we received the diagnosis.

From that learning, I discovered that some neurodivergent people enjoy the security that comes from doing tasks that, to a neurotypical person, may feel tedious and repetitive.

I’m a fraud investigator for ERSOU – the job can involve many time-consuming administrative tasks that don’t need to be done by an experienced professional, but are nevertheless vital to our work and need to be completed to a high standard. With my personal combination of knowledge and experience, I suggested bringing in neurodivergent young people on a Supported Internship Scheme to do some of those tasks.

The scheme is ‘supported’ because the intern comes with a job coach provided by the intern’s college, who liaises with the task provider to learn what the task is and then breaks it down into small steps that the coach teaches the intern. Once the intern has mastered the task, the job coach steps away, and the intern gets on with the task on their own.

Our first intern Becky Hart arrived in September 2021, and she has worked on the Bedfordshire Police Pegasus Scheme, sending out packs to members of the public who want to get a Pegasus card. She has also caught up on historical data for the Eastern Cyber Resilience Centre and kept their (very large) database up to date. This work also involved some Companies House research, which she really enjoyed. Lastly, Becky has regularly worked on the Agency & Partners Management Information System (APMIS) for the Regional Organised Crime Threat Assessment Unit, and consistently achieved a 99.4% accuracy on the work she completes!

Recently Becky started to work on making some of the ERSOU Role Profiles accessibility-compliant (changing fonts, layout, colours etc.) She has also completed a number of small one-off jobs, such as using Adobe Acrobat to redact an expert’s report for a jury evidence bundle, and photocopying and assembling cocooning packs ready for distribution.

From being in a working environment for six months, Becky has learnt self-organising skills, gained in confidence and learned to be more resilient. She has now started looking for a permanent job, whilst she still has the support network of her college and her job coach.

The plan is to roll out the scheme across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire over the next couple of years. ∎

For more information on the ERSOU Supported Internship Scheme, contact us using the Recruitment option

Becky Hart receiving a Commendation for her work with ERSOU from ACC Dan Vajzovic

Autism: challenging the myths

This blog is taken from an email written by a police officer member of the Police Scotland Disability & Carers Association (DACA) in 2021 – it is shared here for World Autism Acceptance Day with the member’s permission

So today is World Autism Awareness Day, and I thought I’d write a little something. I have been reading so many posts online, and unfortunately lots of people think that autistics have zero empathy, can’t hold a conversation, have no friends or relationships and are pretty much destined to fail in life. I wanted to challenge some of these myths and stereotypes and show you that this isn’t the case at all.

Anybody can be autistic – you can’t tell if somebody is autistic by looking at them or even by having a surface level conversation most of the time.

Lots of famous people are/were autistic, Including Charles Darwin, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Albert Einstein. Autistic people are NOT stupid.

Autistic people can have friends and relationships. I am a busy working mum, I’m married, and I have been a police officer for a decade. I also have friends. I will admit I can struggle building new friendships as I’ve never been a ‘huggy’ person, and I always feel a bit socially awkward, but I do have lots of lifelong friends who I know will always support me and have my back.

Not all autistics like trains and maths – lots do and that’s absolutely fine, but often people will have more mainstream interests like bands or animals. These also don’t need to be lifelong interests. They can last weeks, months or even years, but are usually quite intense.

Autism is just as prevalent in females as males – it just often presents differently so is missed or diagnosed much later. Lots of females ‘mask’ or ‘mirror’ behaviours they have seen in an attempt to fit in. They will learn how society expects them to behave and practice this.

Autism is usually hereditary, and not always inherited from a parent – sometimes it is passed from a grandparent or aunt/uncle, but there’s a usually a family connection. 

Autistic people can have empathy – some people actually have so much empathy they don’t know how to channel it. Others can struggle with recognising thoughts and feelings, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care, it just means that they need to work that little bit harder to understand.

Autistic people can hold eye contact. They are just more aware of it, and it’s a conscious effort rather than a natural one.

I was diagnosed with autism around a year ago. My daughter was struggling in school and was referred for an ADHD assessment (again this is hugely misunderstood and isn’t the naughty schoolboy stereotype people imagine, but that’s a whole other story in itself). During the assessment process, the consultant advised me to seek assessment myself, as he suspected I had it too. I did – I was diagnosed with both ADHD and autism, to my surprise. Until now, I hadn’t shared this with many people – I’m not ashamed, I guess I just hadn’t fully processed it myself and was scared people would judge me. I am me. I haven’t changed as a person, but unfortunately people sometimes see a label and have pre-conceived ideas of how you are supposed to look or act, and I didn’t want that.

I don’t really fit the stereotype, so my whole adult life I have been totally unaware why I’ve always felt like I never quite fitted in or why I saw myself as a bit of an outsider. Growing up I had a few close friends, but never fared well in group situations. I do struggle socially, but not in the way people automatically assume when they hear ‘autism’. I’m overly chatty, I often speak too quickly and don’t always notice the tone or volume of my voice. I jump into conversations and often cut people off when they are talking because I don’t always get when it’s my turn to speak. These are all traits of being autistic too.

A lot of people with autism also have a number of sensory issues. For example, to this day I can’t touch raw chicken – I hate the slimy feeling of it and will always ask my husband to cut it for me before cooking, or I pay extra to buy the pre-chopped packs! I also hate itchy woolly jumpers and nylon tights because the material really irritates me.

I massively struggle with executive function skills such as directions too. Ask anybody who knows me or who has worked with me and they will confirm as it’s a bit of a running joke. Thankfully we have sat-navs and Google maps, so it’s never caused me any real issues in my work or personal life. I once went the wrong way when I was driving to Alton Towers though, and ended up driving for two hours in the opposite direction!

People with ASD tend to be very set in their routines too. I have a job that’s structured, so this really suits me. Even when I’m driving home I always tend to go the same way because it’s a route I’m comfortable and familiar with and know well. If there are roadworks or diversions in place this can really stress me out.

I can get overwhelmed quite easily too. At work I need to stay calm and collected (which I have never had any issues with) but it can be exhausting, as you’re so aware of everything you say and do, so will often come home completely drained and not want to join in with family board games/films etc for the rest of the night.

Autism can be a real gift. I have an amazing memory. Just yesterday a colleague asked for a phone number I hadn’t used in years and I remembered it when nobody else did. I notice lots of little details other people don’t too. I am also very aware of the condition so that makes me a great advocate for my kids.

I think the main thing to remember is that autism is a spectrum condition, so not everyone struggles in the same way. It’s wrong to label people and make assumptions, and that’s why I wanted to share my own experience. ∎