PRESS RELEASE: Statement on Avon & Somerset Constabulary and ‘Max’ incident

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.