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Coronavirus (COVID-19): the policing response and what you need to know

In support of difference

Adam O'Loughlin and Jon Owen with our values
Adam O'Loughlin and Jon Owen, our autism and mental health leads

Avon and Somerset Police recognise that not everyone is the same and that some people’s differences can make them more vulnerable.

This includes many – but not all – people with “hidden” disabilities: neurological differences such as autism and ADHD, learning disabilities or mental ill health.

We know that people with these conditions are more likely to have contact with the police service – most often as victims of crime, but also as witnesses and sometimes as suspects.

With that in mind our policies and procedures for our interactions with these vulnerable adults are being shaped by two police officers with lived experience of the conditions.

Adam O’Loughlin is autistic, while Jon Owen has experienced mental ill health and has a diagnosis of ADHD.

Under their guidance we have:

  • delivered an autism training programme for officers and staff in collaboration with the Centre for Applied Autism Research at the University of Bath and the Bristol Autism Spectrum Services (BASS)
  • given input to the National Autistic Society’s Policing Guide
  • delivered mental health training to officers and staff
  • delivered specific training for Taser-trained and other specialist officers on de-escalation techniques
  • given front-line officers access to mental health nurses who can share information and provide real-time advice and guidance to officers who are dealing with people in apparent mental health crisis. This is available to officers from 9am through to 8am in every 24 hours
  • built a cadre of officers with extra training on mental health legislation, procedure and decision-making who can offer practical real-time policing guidance to front-line officers at an incident where someone may be in crisis
  • given detainees access to nurses specialising in mental health and addiction while in custody (not currently 24-hour provision)
  • introduced a standard operating procedure which means that anyone coming into custody who tells us they have a hidden disability, or who officers and staff believe may have such a condition, will have an appropriate adult unless they specifically tell us they do not want one

In July 2020 this work was recognised with an ENEI (Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion) award for Neurodiversity.

We are now working on refreshing the “Safe Places” scheme. The scheme aims to make it easier for people with communication difficulties to get help when they need it, either by going to a police station or calling a dedicated number.

We’re also developing a project which aims to make being in custody a less stressful experience for autistic people.

Not only that, we want our service to truly reflect our communities. We’re working to make sure we have the right support in place for us to employ and retain people with disabilities to help us shape the service they’d like from us. Read more on our Inclusion page.