Student police officer rescued woman from cliff edge at Roker after recognising autism signs

A student police officer rescued a woman with autism from a cliff edge on her sixth shift on duty says specialist training should be mandatory.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 12:17 pm

The officer, known only as Charlotte, received a grade 1 call of concern for a woman standing on the cliff's edge at Roker, Sunderland.

She arrived at the scene where the woman was in a distressed state and the officer quickly realised the woman was presenting signs of severe autism.

Initially the woman was not cooperating with police but using the techniques she had learnt just weeks earlier as part of the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship around autism, Charlotte was able to engage with the woman and eventually brought her to safety.

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Sergeant Phil Atkinson has praised the student officer's actions
Sergeant Phil Atkinson has praised the student officer's actions

Charlotte said: "Myself and my partner arrived and I decided to lead the incident as I felt comfortable in my ability to speak with someone with autism and I wanted to try and engage with the female.

"I remembered the training we had recently received about how best to help support people with autism when they encounter the Criminal Justice System

"I ensured that I remained calm, I gave the woman some simple commands and tried to make it personal in order to distract her from wanting to take her own life.

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"I was also aware that people with autism often get scared by loud noises and lights so I didn't make any sudden movements and made sure the lights and sirens were turned off on the vehicle.

"Thankfully I managed to engage with her and she eventually came to safety. Being aware of how to communicate with individuals with autism is vital and in this scenario it helped to save her life. I think every police officer could benefit from the training because it could one day help save a life.”

Sergeant Phil Atkinson, who delivers the training for Northumbria Police, has now praised the actions of the officer and hopes others can use this in their line of duty.

Sgt Atkinson said: "I am really proud of Charlotte and the actions she took that night. It really does show how crucial the training is and how we must continue to improve our understanding of autism."

This week marks World Autism Awareness Week which aims to raise awareness of autism and help support those living with nerodiversity.#

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