Autism and Police involvement

Has anyone else had a negative experience with police? 

I'm only a 14 year old and I have probably had the worst interaction with police. Unfortunately, there was one incident which led to me being arrested in August 2020. At the time I hadn't been diagnosed with autism.

I used to have a problem with leaving and wandering when I was distressed. But this night was different. I was feeling suicidal due to the thoughts of no one understanding me. I guess the police were called because I was in possession of a bladed article (which I didn't completely understand was extremely illegal). 

But when the police turned up I was even more distressed and overwhelmed due to the lights in the dark and the sirens on. And I was in a confused state at the time so I wasn't completely aware of what they were saying. (Usually people talk in simple short sentences rather than paragraphs). I guess the police didn't understand I was on the spectrum so when I did what they told me to do, they obviously put handcuffs on me which was a problem if you hate things touching you unless it's a firm deep pressure touch. Due to that I starting kicking and became anxious because I din't have a clue was was happening and what was going to happen (and if you're like me, you like things to be predictable or a warning of change).I was then arrested for many things and taken into custody. I didn't understand the law much last year but now I do luckily. One other thing which upset me was my routine was ruined. 

Has anyone else had a negative experience with police, due to them not fully understanding what autism is or the main signs?

I'm sorry if you have. I've never really been able to tell anyone this since I would be labelled as 'the naughty child'. I hope you guys understand.  

  • With a camera in hand the police like to target photographers. They judge others by their own low standards. Take this the right way, I support the Police Force and am grateful they exist. The few bad apples make a bad representation of the majority. Luckily I know the law regarding photography so they get put into their places quickly. My best tactic is to be polite and measured, talking without masking is very monotone and emotionless, completely factual. It works.

    As for your bladed article. I keep a UK legal Victorinox Pioneer multi-tool on my person. It has a blade shorter than 3 inches and is non-locking. I used to be a chef and would carry my tools to and from work. I got stopped a couple of times and all is well for such circumstances.

    If you become emotional with them they can use any reason they like to commandeer your freedom, my top tip is always request a doctor over a duty solicitor. The brief can come later.

    Explaining that one is autistic is something I have in reserve should a situation arise. It would go something like this - "I am happy to come with you to the station officer but please do not restrain me as I am autistic. If you try to restrain me I will violently defend myself and be guilty of assaulting a police officer but that will not happen if you do not restrain me. As I said, I am autistic and I am happy to accompany you to the station." Never had to use that one but something I have on the burner.

    They have one of the most difficult jobs in the country and they have to be careful for their lives as well as the public and the persons they deal with.

  • As a rule police scare me ,not sure why really, but just cooperating with them is always best ,have found them good when aware of autism. But bad if shown any sign of anger. frustration ,just got to bottle it up .the only way .

  • There's a couple of things you need to take into account to cut them a bit of slack - the plod deal with the worst of the worst of the worst on a daily basis - they are assaulted and lied to as a matter of course and if they have to follow fairly strict procedures or they can muddy any court case that might follow the interaction..   

    The other problem is that the average I.Q. of a police officer is only 105 - they are specially chosen to be mindless thugs and willing 'order followers' which makes them good for dealing with criminals but very threatening for 'Joe Public' to deal with if they accidentally get on the police radar.

  • Sorry you had that experience. I've suffered police brutality simply from crossing the wrong police on the wrong day and at other times it was more from my own resistance.  You get get and bad on all sides of the equation.  Body language lessons and serial packed courses in de-escalation methodologies kind of fall apart when dealing with either mentally challenged and or neurological alternate individuals.  That said there is a move to improve upon these dynamics within the police force.  I live in Australia and not long ago one of our states police force has teamed up to launch a new Autism Awareness initiative to help individuals with Autism when they encounter any situations with police and first responders.

    There is a card being implemented for ASD individuals called the 'Autism Alert Card.'  Whilst I am not a fan of the term I am all for the awareness campaign and hope that it will soon spread nation wide. 

    I'm thinking of getting one as my traits are getting worse as I get older and struggle to functioning in public.  Thankfully its been a long time since police intervention.  Current I have a support worker 4 times a week and see a therapist weekly.  

    I am very compliant due to having been beaten into submission on previous accessions.  Like I say - good and bad on all sides of the equation.  Since being compliant (fear) it's hard not to be misread on other fronts regardless of the fear factor.  The traits of ASD make it very challenging situation.  Police are very much entrenched in Stigma and it shows when individuals raise the topic of their disability. I note that has not been the case for some commenting here, however I am 50+ and have a heavy past dealing many times with the police and it's been my experience that stigma and power mongering have ended up with many corrupts dealings where the need for a refocus on mental health and other invisible disability awareness campaigns have been called for.  

    I do all I can to avoid them due to the stigma I have been shown.  It only takes a few bad experiences to undermine all the good efforts of others.  That said, I think I will get an alert card all the same despite not living in a state that is not part of the awareness program.  Communicating issues related to ASD does seem to hold more water than my mental health issues.  Sadly the latter is often met with rolled eyes which only drives down my sense of worth.

    Regardless I do my best to smile when I see them and just play along.  I now find myself having to call upon them as I get older and more venerable, car accidents, noise complaints and so on.  I've learned to tow the line but yes - my automated behavior is often misread and when you get the wrong cops on the job it can end badly regardless of being pushed around or not.  More often than not I stutter and show visible signs that I am not your average bear.  I just need to hold it together so they don't lose the plot.  Refrain from mentioning depression, anxiety, phobias as they really care less for such things - dime a dozen with them, however Autism in Australia has ended up in a few televised beatings.  

    Things are improving but nothing beats learning how not to react to uniformed trigger happy police.  Status and demographic no doubt count as well.  Never happened to me.  I find them really great etc ... That's why they call it a spectrum.  Here in Australia it has been an issue. 

    Here's to more encouraging episodes for those of us that do struggle in this arena. 

  • Like you said, I am grateful to have police around and I know a few personally. My parents have been really supportive during these hard times and have let the police know that I am on the spectrum and how to communicate and calm me down when needed, for whenever I come into contact with them, either as a victim, witnessing a crime or not. They protect us and the public and people they deal with and I'm grateful for that, especially around where I live. 

  • Thanks for your advice, I've now got a card explaining I'm on the spectrum which I have on me 24/7. It's great to use during a shutdown in public or just in general.