Street cred on the spectrum
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The trouble is that others may not realise what is needed and vulnerable people can miss out on getting a fair go, either when they need to report a crime or during other encounters with police.
In the course of his work, Constable Karl “Boldy” Baldwin, a member of the Western Bay of Plenty Family Harm Team, says he frequently encounters adults and children with conditions such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), autism and Asperger’s.
It’s not always immediately obvious, however, and Boldy is keen to raise awareness among his colleagues about such conditions.
“I see these vulnerable people when I’m out and about in the community. Sometimes, what they are doing can look like bad behaviour, but quite often it’s not – it’s a neurological condition.”
Not that he’s expecting cops to be medical experts, but he believes there are some basic strategies that fit into the values of policing by consent, trust and confidence, and prevention.
He’s hoping to organise a presentation for frontline staff from a doctor to cover what should be done when dealing with those with autism spectrum disorders or ADHD.
Earlier this year, Boldy was a facilitator for a 10-week abuse prevention workshop organised by People First New Zealand Ngā Tāngata Tuatahi, a national disabled persons organisation led and directed by those with learning and intellectual disabilities.
About 15 adults took part in the “Keeping Safe Feeling Safe” course. Some came on their own and some with caregivers to learn about what abuse is, including current and historical sexual abuse, what their rights are, the law, healthy relationships and consent, and talking to Police and support services.
Especially important, says Boldy, was looking at the basics of how to report to a police station and, as part of the workshop, the course participants visited the local station to meet front-counter staff and go through the processes involved.
“Sometimes police terminology is too much for people to take in, or people speak too fast. We can use scenario training and visual aids instead.”
For Boldy, the People First NZ workshops fit neatly into the Commissioner’s call for “prevention through partnerships”.
With a stepson on the spectrum, Boldy has more than just a professional interest in those with autism. His personal experience means he brings empathy and understanding to the situations he encounters as part of his work.
He would like specific training in the area to eventually be incorporated into recruit training at the Police College.
Boldy has previously delivered the Loves Me Not programme in high schools, which aims to keep young people away from abusive relationships, and he has recently been approved to be a facilitator for the Mates and Dates programme, which covers all kinds of relationships.
Boldy has been working in the family harm area for 18 months, after 10 years on other frontline work. Originally from England, before he joined Police in New Zealand in 2011, he had worked as an arborist for a decade in Britain and here.
He says he’s come from a physical job to a mental job, and in recent years he’s realised that he would like to be working in youth aid where he can also connect with and support the wider family and whānau. “Every person has a backstory that is part of who they are.”