Category Archives: Blog

DPA Annual Report 2023

by Tracy Betts
President | Disabled Police Association

Over the past year, the DPA Executive Committee has continued to work tirelessly at national and local levels, reinforcing its legitimacy as an organisation over and over again, demonstrating its credibility as key stakeholders in high level decision making with the Home Office, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing.

In September last year we hosted a joint conference with the NPCC with great success. Delegates from all over the country, representing their networks and Forces were treated to inspirational speakers and a fantastic awards evening, recognising the dedication and commitment of those who strive to make a career in policing and our services accessible to all. The conference theme, ‘Conversations with Confidence’, was so apt given the last few turbulent months we’ve had in policing.

I took over from Simon Nelson on 23rd November last year and within a couple of weeks, we as the DPA had to challenge the most senior police officer in the country, Sir Mark Rowley, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, regarding media reports in the wake of the interim findings of the Baroness Casey Review.

I’m pleased to say we were invited to meet with the Commissioner in person, and we had a constructive conversation about the way forward. Sir Mark acknowledged that the Met had a lot of work to do and looking again at how his disabled staff and officers were treated were part of these plans.

Now, as the Casey review has been published in full and we all know the content, we as the DPA reinforce our commitment to continue to be the voice for change, and we will work with all Forces to help to achieve equity for all our members.

We will robustly and unapologetically challenge any leader, organisation or culture which fails to stand up to discrimination in whatever form it takes.

We know that the findings of the Casey review are not unique to the Met and because of this, the 12 point action plan the DPA set the Metropolitan police will be extended to all Forces.

We will not wait to be invited for our opinion but will be taking the challenge to the doors of Chief Officers.

As well as this level of engagement, the DPA give practical, meaningful support to colleagues, empowering local networks even further. For example, we continue to lead regular support sessions for Forces on how to achieve Level 3 Disability Confident status and deliver workshops and forums for local networks to share best practice. We’ve been key contributors to many important work streams such as the College of Policing Workplace Adjustment Toolkit.

As members of the National Fitness Testing Working group, we have ensured disability-related issues are considered throughout when looking at what our job-related fitness testing should look like.

The DPA has continued to be a main contributor in national programmes for digitally accessible police systems, and also lobbies for greater disability representation as part of the Police Uplift Programme, and now the Stakeholder Engagement Group.

As members of the NPCC DEI Consortium as well as working with the other national networks, trade unions and staff associations, the DPA will continue to embrace the benefits of working in partnership, from the advice and support we gain from the Police Superintendents Association to our NPCC Lead, Chief Constable of North Wales, Amanda Blakeman. To all our partners, we’d like to say Thank You, and we look forward to building stronger links with you all throughout this forthcoming year.

Of course, all this work is being done as well as the day-to-day engagement with colleagues and networks at all levels, remembering that each member of the DPA carries out their responsibilities over and above their day job and – because they are so passionate – often in their own time.

With COVID still very much a threat to the wellbeing of colleagues with compromised immunity, there are still challenges to how we do business and support our members. However, there hasn’t been any let-up in the pace, and as the DPA committee and disabled people often do, they have made it work and delivered time after time.

Members of the DPA Executive Committee at New Scotland Yard with Dame Lynne Owens, Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

The DPA will continue to listen to our local disability networks and focus our efforts on those issues that matter most to them.

We have heard that increasing diagnoses of ADHD and the prevalence of this and other neurodivergent conditions continue to be on the increase. Increasing representation in our local networks from the deaf, hard of hearing and visually impaired communities has meant that we now have more opportunity to better understand the challenges of working in the police service and how services are accessed.

We know that the mental health crisis and PTSD is also of significant concern, demonstrated by an alarming increase in the rates of deaths by suicide of our colleagues. We commit to doing all we can to ensure tragedies such as these are always kept in the consciousness of the decision makers.

It’s also important we look at the medical requirements for new joiners as well the pension implications that go alongside them. This includes the cross-cultural implications for people with certain conditions, automatically ruling some out of a career as police officers.

Continuing to focus on our built environment is vital – it’s 2023, but our staff are still not able to move easily about our police estates. We must increase our efforts to ensure that everyone can access everywhere at work.

Accurate data collection is key, and we will be continuing to put pressure on those who collate workforce data: making sure they ask the right questions, sharing that information in an open and transparent way to highlight themes and trends, and holding to account those who don’t comply.

Although anecdotal evidence is important, we cannot begin to tackle the issues effectively without the facts to back those lived experiences up. We already know – and this has been borne out by the Baroness Casey review – that the way we do business inside our organisations has a direct correlation with the quality of the service we deliver to the public.

To that end, our 2023 conference, which will be held on 20th and 21st September in Hinckley, Leicestershire will reflect this. This year’s theme is ‘Valuing our People’ – our conference will help and inspire all delegates to:

  • Improve community cohesion and build strong, happy, safe, and inclusive environments together
  • Recruit, retain and progress our talent by listening, empowering, and championing people with diverse abilities
  • Improve our procurement processes and understand the importance of accessible technology in building an inclusive culture
  • Release capacity and become better at preventing and detecting crime and keeping people safe

We look forward to seeing you there – more information will be posted soon.

Here’s to the next 12 months. ∎

You are part of our history

by Simon Nelson
President | Disabled Police Association

The last few weeks of my police service bring me into my last Disability History Month in policing and my final quarterly blog for the DPA and Police Superintendents’ Association. The dynamic and challenging nature of our business offers us little time to pause and reflect, but the last few months have included lots of thoughtful conversations with others, prompting me to remember the many experiences during my 29 years in policing, including the last eight doing what I could to influence better disability inclusion and equality.

Countless things have changed and many of them for the better. When I walked through the gates at Sussex Police HQ in December 1993 (yes, the year after internet dial-up was first available in the UK!) domestic abuse without injury was considered to be a private matter, the age of consent for the gay community was 21 years-of-age, and discrimination due to disability was not illegal. As many of you know, I was diagnosed with cancer 18 years ago, and prior to the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act it was not unusual for those who shared their cancer diagnosis with their employer to be sacked on the spot – in history terms this is recent. Thankfully my Force was supportive, and I have tried to show my gratitude through the many years of commitment that followed.

Just eight years ago, it was not uncommon for key national police communications to list protected characteristics and not include disability. It may not always feel like it, but we have come a long way since then, with disability (including neurodiversity) featuring more within key discussions and a wider understanding of the benefits that come from supporting diverse abilities: developing talent and capacity by supporting what colleagues can do – and often very well – rather than disabling them due to a condition they may have to manage. Building support to sustain capacity will become increasingly important during the particular funding pressures I know policing will experience over the coming years.

The theme for this year’s Disability History Month is ‘Disability, Health and Wellbeing’. This offers an opportunity to understand how determined efforts to address ‘ill health and the non-deployable’ can have a perverse impact on those who have acquired lifelong conditions and have much to contribute – IF they are provided with the right support, and through good leadership. There is also an association between poor line management support for a member of their team living with a disability and the real risk of them experiencing additional mental health issues – supervisors and managers can choose to find solutions or promote exclusion.

During this forthcoming Disability History Month, please also take some time to understand how disability is a lifelong possibility for all and most colleagues, whether they be officers, staff or volunteers, and that those individuals are most likely to acquire or receive a diagnosis during their lives as I did, rather than being born with these conditions. Support the diverse abilities you may one day wish others to value in you.

The trust and confidence of all of our communities is essential and key to our legitimacy, so everyone needs to be behind the Police Race Action Plan, which will also benefit disabled Black colleagues. I have really enjoyed working with other national network leads for diverse groups to ensure intersectional needs are understood, and with suitable support and investment these networks could provide broader support as Business Reference Forums, also advising on the service we offer their diverse communities. I believe that how we value difference within the police service, both in terms of members of protected groups and how others treat them, influences how we then go on to serve diverse communities.

Earlier I mentioned how disability awareness and support is growing, and this is thanks to the efforts of many people I cannot name individually as they would fill this page! Whether you have played a positive part in the history of our Associations in my home Force, on a committee, as a senior leader, at the College of Policing, or have simply taken the time to be supportively curious and have some challenging conversations, I thank you for your voices, interest and time.

Several people have asked me what I will miss the most, and I have always replied, ‘The people’ – so many have been a part in my largely enjoyable time as a police officer. I always did my best for others and for the public; I did not always get it right, but it was always with integrity, a willingness to learn and with the best of intentions.

Keep safe, follow your purpose and create a better history for others. ∎

Inspector Tracy Betts of Essex Police has taken over from Simon Nelson as Interim President, pending the next Annual General Meeting in 2023. The DPA would like to thank Simon for his service, and wishes him a long and happy retirement.

DPA statement following the sad passing of
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

We are incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, for whom it has always been a privilege to serve our communities. She was and always will be an inspiration to us all, particularly to those of all ages who live with challenging conditions and constantly demonstrate resilience, persevering relentlessly and with a strong sense of duty.

The Disabled Police Association sends its heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family and pledges to continue with this strong sense of responsibility and commitment to those who need us, as she would have expected and on behalf of the King.

Simon Nelson
Disabled Police Association