1,000 Police Officers Trained to Tackle Learning Disability Hate Crime

Ellen Lees
By Ellen Lees,
updated on Oct 16, 2018

1,000 Police Officers Trained to Tackle Learning Disability Hate Crime

Training comes as new research by Dimensions charity reveals 73% of people with learning disabilities have experienced hate crime

More than 1,000 Surrey police officers have completed training to reduce the prevalent under-reporting of learning disability hate crime. Developed by Dimensions as part of their #ImWithSam campaign, the training comes as a response to the latest research revealing that out of those with learning disabilities who have experienced hate crime, only 48% had reported it to police.

#ImWithSam is a long-term hate crime campaign led by Dimensions to tackle hate crime at its roots and promote better support for victims. Sam represents the 73% of people with learning disabilities that have experienced hate crime.

Since completion of the training, there has been an increase in officers’ confidence in taking reports, and a month on month increase in hate crime being reported in Surrey.

The process of reporting a hate crime can be incredibly stressful, and people with learning disabilities and autism say they feel anxious about reporting it to the police and don’t feel that they are taken seriously. As a result, many of these crimes go unreported.

ONS figures show that while there are more than 70,000 disability hate crimes happening every year, the recorded figures for 2016/17 stood at under 6,000.

Lack of training

According to Dimensions, people with learning disabilities and autism are four times more likely to experience disability hate crime than those with ‘visible’ disabilities, such as those impacting stamina, mobility or vision. This ‘invisibility’ permeates into their experience of reporting hate crime, as often officers have not had the training to recognise if someone has a learning disability or autism.

46% of frontline police officers reported never having received learning disability and autism awareness training. This gap not only impacts the confidence of officers but also the confidence of the people who have experienced a hate crime looking to come forward.

98% of people with learning disabilities and autism called for improved training for police officers. As a result, Dimensions worked with Surrey Police to improve the confidence and skills of their APT officers, who are often the first point of contact for victims of hate crime.

#ImWithSam training programme

More than 1,000 officers were trained under the #ImWithSam programme. The face-to-face sessions were interactive and co-led by a person with a learning disability who had experienced hate crime, to share their first-hand experience with officers.

As well as exploring the origins of stigma and prejudice against people with learning disabilities and autism, the training programme focused on improving officer confidence in recognising if someone has a learning disability or autism, supporting and taking a crime report, and knowing when to apply a hate crime flag on a crime report.

Ben Shiell, Contact Performance Manager at Surrey Police headquarters in Guildford, said: “Dimensions’ training really hit the nail on the head. Hearing from someone who has experienced a disability hate crime in the past but didn’t feel able to report it has made a huge impact on me.

“As a member of the police, hearing this from someone we’re here to protect and support was hard - and really brought home the fact that under-reporting is a pressing issue that we need to urgently address.

“Everyone in the police force should have an opportunity to go through the training. We all need to be much more aware of the particular challenges that people with learning disabilities and autism might face when reporting a hate crime.”

Impact of training

So far, the results of the training have been overwhelmingly positive. There has been a 22% increase in officer confidence in recognising whether someone might have a learning disability or autism, while more than 90% of officers now feel confident taking a report.

In response to this, Dimensions is calling for the National Police Chiefs Council to make learning disability and autism hate crime training mandatory, and for all UK police forces to deliver classroom-based training on learning disabilities and autism hate crime to all staff.

Mark Brookes, Dimensions’ Campaigns Advisor who has a learning disability and co-led the training said: “The main problem with disability hate crime is awareness - too many people still don’t really understand what hate crime is and what to do about it. The same goes for police officers - so it’s positive to see that when they’ve got the right training, they feel more confident in supporting people with learning disabilities and autism.

“No one should have to suffer in silence and we hope that people in Surrey will feel more confident in reporting these crimes to police. We would like to see the training adopted by other constabularies across the country so that we can put an end to learning disabilities and autism hate crime.”

Learn more about Dimensions and the #ImWithSam campaign.

For more information on disabilities and discrimination, visit Counselling Directory.

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