Police, Dyslexia and Me!

Whether you are dyslexic or not life will test you. It push you and it will take you places you might not want to go. BUT if you use that energy then you can do anything.

I guess that is how my story began in my current career as a serving British police officer.

Every story starts with a hard first chapter but it’s not about the 1st 20 pages, it’s about the book, the journey, the decision and the outcomes.

2007 I was sat in a huge briefing room with about 200 other prospective candidates. A video was played which showed police cars screaming down the road chasing the bandit car, helicopters tracking suspects using infer red and fast ribs crashing through waves. It was every prospective coppers dream that really got the blood rushing!

The briefing was in its closing stage when the staff member asked for one of the candidates to stay behind. Everyone looked around to see who was being singled out. I didn’t need to look around because the name that was called out was mine.

I meet the staff member who asked if I was dyslexic to which I confirmed. 
I was told that the force could not discriminate (to which I was thinking this is positive).

They then continued and said “against everyone else”. That positive thinking then was lost in confusion. I was told that there was a five spelling mistake cap and that this would still apply to me. That buzz I had from that earlyer presentation was completely blown away following a 30 second conversation with that person. I explained that there is no way I could achieve this to which I was offered a suggestion of using “simpler words”.

The emotions spilled over and I said “shall I also bring my crayons along too”.

I left that briefing with an attitude of what is the point of even doing the exam. What is the point of applying for any job let alone the old bill. My normal up beat attitude was hammered into the ground.

However I picked myself up, revised hard, practiced my spelling and did the exam to which I……..still failed.

I was in turn offed a role as a police community support officer which I did for three year and then re did the exam when this rule was taken away to which I passed. 

I am now up to 10 years as a serving British police officer and can say that I have had a good career so far working on tactical units and now working in the marine world but it has not all been plain sailing (excuse the pun)

Spelling!!! I can not stress how much this word has got me into trouble. My first hand written statement which I took from a retired teacher is a good example. Following its completion and then needing to sign to say this is correct, they started to pick up on my spelling, pulled out a red pen, corrected it and asked if I could re write it. How embarrassing!!! Funny now but then as a brand new PC out of the box it was devastating.

Typed statements using spell check were not much better. I had to write a crown court statement about me chasing a suspect to which I thought I had written “I pursued a male over the course of 5 minuets” but following being proof read by a friend I had actually written “I perused a male over the course of 5 minuets!!” That got some laughs in the office but again it knocks you down because you can’t even use spell check properly. Iv also put someone’s occupation down as retarded rather than retired!!

My main issue has always been E-learning. Packages are getting better but still they are mainly bulk text with little Video interaction. I have always asked the question about if I get training on a subject and I don’t understand it then subsequently I do something wrong then who is to blame? Me for not understanding it or the organisation for not providing a package I can reasonably learn from.

I put some of my issues to a force culture board and from that was made a dyslexic Spoc or point of contact. 

I wanted to see if it was just me or if there were other people out there having the same problems.

So with management approval I basically wrote an email to all staff across my division throwing my self under the bus. Highlighting these embarrassing stories that have happened to me to try and show people that this does happen and you should not have to be embarrassed about having dyslexia.

I got over 30 emails with a really positive response. Majority of people thought they might be dyslexic but didn’t know how to find out. However one person said they were days away from leaving because they were not getting support from the job and the laptop they were promised was no where to be seen. There are so many other examples but it got me thinking that this was only from 1 division. If this went force wide or either nation wide how many people are suffering on the edge of wanting to leave? No mater how much organisations say that they have processes in place people always slip through the net.

However things are changing and dyslexia is becoming more understood in the policing world. There is still so much more that needs to be done. I was surprised how many people were happy and felt comftable  talking to me including ranked officers because I was just a PC. 

My goal in writing this blog and doing organisation talks is to promote the idea of having points of contact who are accessible for everyone in the workplace. Support services are still key and should not be substituted but sometimes people want to get advice from people that are living it and have experienced similar situations. Even if you help one person then that may be the difference between them leaving or staying.

For me following all the hurdles half of which I haven’t been able to mention I have still managed to progress to the job of my dreams working in the marine world. Even this has tested me with exams, intense learning and working in a very competitive area.

In summery of this blog, I guess your success depends on you, your supervisors and the organisation as a whole. All three of these can create barriers but the good thing about being dyslexic is thinking out of the box and finding ways to go around the problem. But organisations can only change if people are prepared to put the head up and say this is not right. There for whether you are dyslexic or someone who supervises someone who is dyslexic then we all have a responsibility to drive positive change.

The comments section does not work on this site but please let me know your thoughts at @samthedyslexic

I hope you enjoyed reading this. For me it was a big step putting pen to paper but I really want to help people with my experiences.

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