PRESS RELEASE: Hertfordshire Constabulary hosts Disabled Police Association’s AGM

Hertfordshire Constabulary hosted the Disabled Police Association’s Annual General Meeting at Force Headquarters in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire on the 28th February 2018. It is the first time that the Constabulary has hosted a meeting of the national association, which was facilitated by the force’s own Disability and Carers Network (HDCN).

The Disabled Police Association is the national body representing disability support networks from police forces across the UK. It aims to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people working within the extended police family.

Guests were welcomed by Hertfordshire’s disability champion Superintendent Dean Patient, and the conference was formally opened by Chief Constable Charlie Hall. He said: “I am proud that Hertfordshire Constabulary has, for the first time, hosted the Disabled Police Association’s annual conference.

“Since joining the Force as Chief Constable in 2016, I have made it clear that supporting people who face daily challenges through disability should be a priority within the Force. Our workforce is our greatest asset and work to ensure that the Constabulary, and indeed, police forces up and down the country understand the issues that face those with disabilities or caring commitments, so that we can support them to give their best, is extremely important.

“It was a pleasure to formally open the conference and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank HDCN Chair Rob Gurney and his colleagues for making it possible for us to host the conference.”

Chief Constable Charlie Hall opening the Disabled Police Association annual meeting

The conference included a number of guest speakers including Vice-Chair of the Police Federation Che Donald, Kate Nash from Purple Space – a networking hub for disabled employees – and Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd. Remote captioning technology was used throughout the day to ensure the speeches were accessible for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Mr. Gurney, who is seconded from the Force as President of the DPA, said: “It was a great honour to hold the annual meeting of the Disabled Police Association in Hertfordshire, especially during my tenure as President. Despite the snow, many representatives from Forces right across the UK attended and were able to celebrate the positive contribution that disabled people are making towards policing.

“We are delighted to have enhanced the expertise of the national executive committee following the election of a number of new members who bring experience and enthusiasm to our work. This year heralds the start of improved support to policing from our association with increased social media coverage and staffing resilience.

“The annual meeting provided an outstanding opportunity for the Disabled Police Association to outline its future support to the police service in delivering the objectives set out by the Government’s white paper entitled Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health and Disability.

“We were especially grateful to Chief Constable Charlie Hall and PCC David Lloyd for taking the time to highlight their desire for a police service that is representative of the communities that it serves and in particular the work of the disability networks both locally and nationally.”

David Lloyd, who is also Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, closed the conference. He said: “I was very pleased to see Hertfordshire Constabulary hosting such an important event. The theme of a lot of discussion during the day was a collaborated approach to achieving best practice.

“We heard a lot about the significant progress being made across policing, especially recognition that disability presents itself in many ways, and the work being done around the mental health of our staff and officers.

“I know the Constabulary takes this work very seriously and have discussed our approach with the force’s disability champion. I look forward to even more positive action in the future.” ∎

“I wouldn’t change the way I am”

Nigel Colston is Chief Inspector for Neighbourhood Policing with Avon & Somerset Constabulary. As an officer on the autistic spectrum, he talks about how he overcame the challenges associated with his condition and how being autistic brings unique strengths to his role

By way of introduction, many people know me as an “autistic officer”. That isn’t meant in any disparaging way, how could it when I often call myself this! I want to use my position as an autistic officer in a positive way to promote the fact that with the right support, people can get on in this organisation. When I started as a police officer in 1988, I didn’t actually know that I was “disabled”. Even when I found out I was autistic, I was surprised to learn that the condition is considered a disability, because for me it is just part of who and what I am. I really only ever use the word disability now because it’s the lawful way to categorise me.

When I told a few friends in confidence that I was autistic, their response was an ironic lack of surprise. I had somehow, miraculously, succeeded with my professional career and had even been promoted to sergeant by this stage. Until then, I always had this strong feeling that I was personally responsible for everything – “you haven’t investigated that crime”, that’s my fault for not checking; “you didn’t arrest that suspect”, that’s my fault for not telling you to. I found it incredibly difficult to mix socially with the team. I couldn’t understand why I was unable to hear a conversation in a pub that everyone else was fully engaged in: it turns out that I also suffer from sensory processing disorder as well. Despite achieving good results with my work I never considered myself good enough. That made my role, and my life, quite difficult to say the least.

Having had the diagnosis, I was at last able to start understanding the different way in which my brain worked, and I was able to recognise, adapt and create ways in which I could manage some of this. More importantly, for the first time I began to recognise some of the positives that my neurodiversity offered. I am able to compartmentalise emotions and quickly distinguish relevant and irrelevant information – great when attending critical incidents. Contrary to popular belief, many people on the autistic spectrum are capable of empathy, but often to a state where they are over-empathetic. This is great when helping support colleagues, victims, friends and family, but has a huge impact afterwards because I genuinely feel as if many of those things have happened to me. It is a constant battle of emotions in my case: severe anxiety in regards to my personal life, fighting huge self-confidence with regards to work.

It will be a wonderful day when such distinctions make absolutely no difference to how people, society and organisations view any sort of variance to the perceived ‘norm’. I was once called up for jury service and was disqualified – not because I may be biased due to my 20 years as a police officer, but because officially I had a ‘disease of the mind’. Somewhat ironic that I am judged fit enough to build an evidential case against people, but not to determine whether they are innocent or guilty!

Despite all of this, I wouldn’t change the way I am. But that is personal to me and I understand others may feel differently.

What I will say (and really the main point of my blog) is that I have received absolutely fantastic support from colleagues, managers and the organisation as a whole which eventually enabled me to become a Chief Inspector. I can say with absolute certainty that I would not have got through the recent promotion boards without that support and a number of reasonable adjustments being made; but I hope that the end result for the organisation has been positive overall. That’s why I try to offer myself as an example of what can be achieved with the right support.

I am now the Vice-Chair of the Avon & Somerset Constabulary branch of the Disabled Police Association, a support network for staff aimed at promoting and supporting colleagues with any sort of disability. We are really keen to hear from anyone affected by any disability, and sadly we often hear about cases where people haven’t had the same positive support that I was fortunate enough to receive. Please – if there is one message that I ask you to take away, it is to contact the DPA if you are disabled or managing someone who is and you need any advice or support. Since I started as a PC within Avon & Somerset we come a long way, but there is still a way to go.

December 3rd 2017 was International Day of People with Disability which is recognised by many support groups, associations and employers across the country. The awareness day aimed to promote an understanding of disability issues and rally support for the dignity, rights and well-being of disabled people. Last year’s theme focused on the benefits of integrating disabled people in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life, and the contribution these individuals make. Along with the DPA, we want to celebrate and invest in our employer networks and resource groups, and to build a community of disabled employees both in the UK and across the globe.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a story appeared in the news which announced Government plans to get one million more disabled people in work over the next 10 years. Ignoring the politics that may be behind some of this (seriously, don’t get me started), there is a clear recognition that disabled people can offer so much to the workplace. If I could take one quote from the report it is that “everyone deserves the chance to find a job that’s right for them.”


This blog was originally published on the Avon & Somerset Constabulary website – reproduced here with kind permission of Avon & Somerset Constabulary

Time To Talk about mental illness

Thursday 1st February 2018 is ‘Time To Talk’ Day, an initiative led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness to encourage people to talk about their mental health.

With around 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem this year, the stigma around mental illness can be as bad as the mental health problem itself. Emergency services staff are particularly vulnerable to stress, and it is vital that we all feel able to talk to a family member or work colleague if things start to get on top of us.

For more information on how to get involved, follow Time To Change on Twitter. The Disabled Police Association is committed to supporting wellbeing and mental health in the extended police family – visit our resource pages for links and articles.