Police Officers in study of developmental disorders claim to ‘need more autism training’

A recent report published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that 70% of autistic adults are dissatisfied with the way they are treated by British police.

However, the report also revealed that only 42% of police officers themselves felt that they had worked well with people with autism – and more than a fifth of British officers were displeased with the way their interactions with autistic people had gone.

Police questioned as part of the study expressed dissatisfaction with a lack of role-specific training – with 63% of participants claiming to have received no autism-based training whatsoever.

Co-author of the study and Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Bath, Dr Katie Maras, said: “It is essential that police feel better equipped with role-specific training about autism, and that they have the institutional support that allows them to flexibly adapt their procedures in order to better support people with autism.”

There are more than 700,000 people with autism across the UK.

The condition affects communication, social understanding and flexibility of behaviour and thought, and these vulnerable people tend to find unfamiliar situations – like conversations with the police – distressing and unnerving.

Dr Laura Crane, a Research Fellow at City University, London, and co-author, said: “Contact with police can be a stressful event.

“As a result, police officers, especially those in frontline roles, need to be aware of possible signs of autism.

“Autistic people are a vulnerable group within the criminal justice system. High-quality training and support for police who may encounter autistic people within their role will ensure that the experience for all involved improves to the necessary level.”

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