Written evidence submitted by the Disabled Police Association (POP0018)

1. We are grateful to have this opportunity as representatives of those with disabilities in policing, including those who are neurodivergent, to support the committee while it considers the policing priorities for the future. 18% of working age adults live with some form of disability and we should expect similar numbers in policing to represent the communities we serve, including those who are disabled as well as different in other ways such as race or sexual orientation. We apologise for a brief response due to time constraints and other demands.

2. For the modern police service to have legitimacy and public confidence it requires diversity at all levels to effectively serve diverse communities across the UK. The spotlight is currently on the Metropolitan Police, however, prejudice, inappropriate conduct and exclusion is a reality to varying degrees across all forces. Police Chiefs are often unwilling to face uncomfortable truths about police workplace cultures and often lack the cohesion or structure at a national level to make decisions that could result in tangible improvements.

3. A National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) commissioned workforce survey revealed in 2020 shocking levels of disablism and ableism within police forces, including 42% of respondents who had experienced derogatory comments about their disability during the previous 12 months. There is not a current or comprehensive diversity, equality and inclusion strategy or delivery plan agreed, or any programme in response to the survey which may promote positive workplace cultures where all differences are respected. This is a clear retention risk to the objectives of the Police Uplift Programme.

4. Although there are some very understanding and approachable chief officers, over the past 5 years Police Chiefs Council have been unable to agree a position on support and funding for national police diverse networks such as ours. In this modern age we still do not have an allocated budget; committee members are volunteers who often complete association work in their own time and the lead roles are not nationally funded, resulting in varying amounts of negotiated time being agreed with an individual’s home force. This restricts the capacity for diverse networks to influence, support and challenge constructively strategic leaders – we are beginning to consider if this is, albeit unconsciously, intentional.

5. Well-supported and funded national staff networks could be at the heart of any solutions as well as having the capacity to advise on how best to serve the communities we represent. It is entirely logical to suggest there is a correlation between how members of the police service who are different are treated within the police service and how the police go on to serve different communities if they engage with them at all. This is at the heart of the policing principles originally set by Sir Robert Peel and we urgently need policies that empower and encourage our workforce to share their lived experience, to feed directly into local and national training programmes.


6. Disability hate crime has increased by 43% over the past 12 months and many disabled people consider their mistreatment and discrimination to be a reality of everyday life. Those who have the courage to report hate crime often face a criminal justice system that does not operate in unison and services that blame each other for case failures.

7. Unfortunately, our experience of the NPCC is swift decisions, positive messages and funded initiatives only in response to high profile tragedies such as George Floyd and Sarah Everard, which attract a lot of media and political comments; however, this can also result in cynical behaviours and perverse outcomes to the detriment of other diverse groups such as ours who frequently remain marginalised, forgotten as a protected group in their key messages and largely unsupported. It is such a shame that tragic cases relating to disabled people such as that of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter in 2007 appear to have been largely forgotten.

8. For many years we have attempted to influence, support and make respectful requests of NPCC with little success – we have always been keen to be part of the solution. It is a great shame that we are not currently able to speak more highly of how it is to be different in today’s police service, particularly as our members remain proud of what they do and determined to make a difference. If disabled members of the police service are supported well with reasonable adjustments and compassion, they are able to perform better and provide discretionary effort providing much needed capacity within our public service during the challenging years ahead.

9. Thank you again for seeking our comments.

October 2022