An Examination of the Experiences and Perceptions of Dyslexic Police Officers in England and Wales




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


The experiences of dyslexic adults in education as well as the ‘caring professions’ of nursing, teaching and social work continue to be fertile ground for academic study. This study extends the range of current academic knowledge of dyslexia in the workplace by exploring the experiences of dyslexic police officers across England and Wales. The context is the extension of disability-related equality legislation to the police service in 2004. The overarching aim of the study is to examine the experiences and perceptions of dyslexic police officers who are ‘on-the-streets’ and not in the classroom environment. This research is underpinned by the principles of the social model of disability (Oliver 1990) and in it, dyslexia is understood not as a stand-alone difference but rather as an aspect of neurodiversity (Cooper 2009) A qualitative and exploratory research strategy was adopted. Data was collected by way of self-completed questionnaires and from face-to-face semi-structured interviews with twenty-five serving or recently resigned dyslexic police officers from ten police services from across England and Wales. The data was analysed using Layder’s theory of domains and his adaptive theory (Layder 2005 & 2013). This study identified that the overwhelming majority of dyslexic police officers experienced a broad range of attitudinal, procedural and police ‘barriers’ to their full integration into the police organisation. All of the participants in this study had disclosed to their employing police service that they were dyslexic. Participant understanding of dyslexia and disability was deeply rooted within the medical model rather than the social model. The study identified substantial evidence of bullying, and discrimination was identified across the broad range of police services as well as significant failings in the provision of workplace assessments by Job Centre staff. Despite this treatment very few participants complained or sought redress. The dominance of the medical model of disability in wider society, together with negative aspects of police ‘occupational’ culture, were identified as key factors in the participants’ decision making processes. This research concludes that institutional disablism in terms of dyslexia is widespread across some police services in England and Wales despite the extension of the disability discrimination legislation to the police service. The research concludes with some recommendations for policy and practice.



Police, Dyslexia, Neurodiversity, Adaptive Theory, Discrimination, domain theory, Disablism, Police Culture



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