‘Street' policing and autism: perceptions and preconceptions of police officers when interacting with autistic suspects in the community

Reveley, Shirley and Dickie, Iain (2023) ‘Street' policing and autism: perceptions and preconceptions of police officers when interacting with autistic suspects in the community. In: Smith, Tom, (ed.) Autism and criminal justice: the experience of suspects, defendants and offenders in England and Wales. Routledge, London, UK, pp. 10-28. Full text not available from this repository.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003248774-2


This chapter offers a critical consideration of how police officers' perceptions of autistic individuals encountered within a community policing context could be affected by the officers' level of awareness and understanding about autism. The first contact for a suspect within the criminal justice system is usually in the community at the time of arrest. As the reported prevalence rate of autism in the community increases, police officers on the beat are increasingly likely to become involved with autistic individuals. Police officers' perceptions and the level of awareness and understanding of autism they bring to their work has a significant impact on the quality of their interactions with those autistic individuals suspected of committing a crime and impact the outcome. There is a limited amount of research on how differences in perceptual frameworks influence the interactions between officers and autistic suspects. Furthermore, frontline officers in England and Wales currently receive limited training on autism, and it is questionable whether this training covers concepts such as perception or empathy. This chapter will propose that autism training for officers on the beat needs to include awareness of perceptual differences and empathetic communication to close what is an identified gap in theory and practice. The chapter reviews police officers' interaction with autistic adults in the ‘street' context, followed by a discussion of the adequacy of autism training for police officers. The concept of empathy in the training of police officers will be explored, as well as discussion of how Milton's ‘double empathy problem' can help to overcome the empathy divide. The chapter concludes by proposing ‘encounter groups' as a useful means of developing a mutual understanding of autism between police officers and the autistic community.

Item Type: Book Section
Publisher: Routledge
ISBN: 9781003248774
Departments: Institute of Health > Nursing
Additional Information: Chapter one within book. Shirley Reveley, Visiting Research Professor, Institute of Health, University of Cumbria. Iain Dickie, previously lecturer in counselling and psychotherapy, University of Cumbria.
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2023 15:08
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2024 14:47
URI: https://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/7055
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