Bristol, UK: The National Police Autism Association (NPAA) is aware of the outcome of an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (now the Independent Office for Police Conduct) into the interaction between Avon & Somerset Constabulary and an adult male referred to as ‘Max’ (name changed to protect his identity) in 2015, in which a Taser electroshock weapon was discharged. Max has an autism spectrum condition and an associated learning disability.
The NPAA maintains that force should only be used by police against vulnerable adults and children as an absolute last resort. However, we recognise that in some situations, use of force may be necessary to protect members of public, officers and the individual themselves. In this particular case, an officer made a rapid decision to deploy Taser based on Max’s age, physical profile and behaviour – this use of force was found to be proportionate following an investigation by the IPCC.
Having autism is not an excuse for criminal or anti-social behaviour, and we recognise that police officers are often asked to make very quick decisions in difficult circumstances. However The NPAA has always advocated that autistic people are vulnerable, and should be treated as such by the police and criminal justice agencies regardless of their age, circumstances or station in life.
Current estimates suggest that there may be up to a million adults and children on the autism spectrum in the UK. That means that almost every frontline police officer in the country will come into contact with someone with autism at some point in their career. We are pleased that Avon & Somerset Constabulary are making improvements to the way in which autistic people are dealt with, and we will continue to work with the Force to implement changes to reflect this.
The NPAA works with all UK police forces to design and deliver training for frontline officers in how to recognise the patterns of behaviour and traits that come with autism, and we continue to support those within the law enforcement community whose lives are touched by it.
About us: The NPAA is an independent body supporting UK police officers, staff and volunteers who are affected by autism spectrum condition (ASC), Asperger syndrome, and other neurodiverse conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and depression – either personally or as carers for family members. We welcome all police personnel with a personal or professional interest in these conditions.
Bristol, UK: The UK National Police Autism Association (NPAA) is today aware of an
incident involving an American Police Officer in Buckeye, Arizona, and an autistic boy.
The video circulating online is distressing to watch and it seems clear the incident stems
from a completely avoidable misunderstanding. While the NPAA cannot comment on
the outcome of any investigation that takes place, it’s obvious that lessons need to be
NPAA spokesman Adam O’Loughlin commented: “This incident demonstrates the
absolute need for all police services to ensure that their front line officers are sufficiently
trained to recognise the outward traits displayed by many autistic people and to react
The NPAA works closely with all UK police forces, and we are aware that many frontline
officers have either received autism awareness training or are due to receive training
soon. As a result we are confident that an incident such as this is unlikely to occur in the
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.