An autistic detective who was bullied out of her dream job by the “toxic and discriminatory” actions of her managers is calling for the Metropolitan police to do more to improve the treatment of neurodivergent officers.
Mia*, who also has a long-term health condition, is now taking the force to an employment tribunal for disability, race and sex discrimination.
She has been told by former colleagues that her experience is not unique, and that neurodivergent police officers within the force are frequently bullied, ostracised and harassed.
Mia, who came to the Met with a masters degree in criminology, told Disability News Service this week: “While there is a lot in the news about how bad it is in the Met with regards to race and sex, there’s almost nothing said about disability.
“But disability discrimination is one of the biggest things, for me and for many others still in the Met, and a lot of the autism community in the Met are facing a lot of problems.
“I know many before me and after me will go through this and something needs to be done.”
Mia joined the Met as a trainee detective and during her initial posting the bullying she received from one line manager led to constant “high levels of anxiety, depression and stress” and eventually – she believes – helped trigger an autoimmune condition.
Her health deteriorated so badly that she was only able to walk a few paces without needing to take a rest.
Despite twice being hospitalised with the condition, the manager – whose behaviour she described as “toxic, unrelenting, discriminatory” – was “very mistrustful of the information I would give him, questioning specifically what was wrong with me and what effects the sickness was having on me”.
He even forced her to take part in a live arrest when she could barely walk, and repeatedly pressed her to take a fitness test.
He also pushed her to go back on full duties when she returned to work after two months’ sick leave.
Mia said managers also refused to provide her with the reasonable adjustments she needed to ease her mental distress, including repeated requests to move to a new borough.
She was left barely functioning at work and at home because of the impact of the treatment she received on her mental and physical health and was then shunted against her will into an administrative position.
She told her superiors last year: “I was never allowed any peace. Bullying, mismanagement, a serious autoimmune illness, COVID-19 and the constant threat of losing my job.
“I lived in constant fear.”
She eventually resigned from the job after more than two years**.
Now she is taking the Metropolitan police to an employment tribunal, with a hearing set to take place later this year over a number of days.
She hopes that winning the case will ensure the force improves the way it treats its disabled officers, particularly those who are neurodivergent.
The National Police Autism Association (NPAA) said it was unable to comment on individual cases.
But John Nelson, NPAA’s chair, said: “As a national peer support network for neurodivergent police officers and staff, the NPAA is often approached for help by members who are experiencing difficulties at work due to their neurodivergent conditions not being properly accommodated.
“It is particularly concerning to hear of reports of bad treatment by line management where neurodiversity is a factor, and we will challenge such behaviour.
“The NPAA is committed to providing a safe online space for our members, and to working with the College of Policing to share best practice for developing our neurodivergent workforce.
“We urge police leaders at all levels to be mindful of their obligations under the Equality Act and public sector equality duty in respect to all forms of difference, and also to appreciate the abilities and commitment that neurodivergent officers and staff can bring to policing.”
A Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) spokesperson said: “The MPS can confirm an employment tribunal has been brought against the MPS by a former officer… alleging disability, sex and race discrimination.
“A preliminary hearing will be held on Wednesday 8 March and a final hearing is currently scheduled to commence on Tuesday 17 October.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
*Not her real name
**Details have been omitted for legal reasons
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