A police officer is “on a mission” to put disability hate crime in the spotlight in a bid to encourage more victims to report incidents. PC Jake Weldon, 31, who is based in Cambridge city, said he wants to raise awareness about how to recognise and report this type of hate crime as he said it’s “massively under-reported”.
“Victims sometimes try to make a joke or shrug it off when something happens.” he said. “But if someone calls a disabled person a derogatory word, such as ‘the r-word’, it could be a public order offence.
“And if someone comes along and pushes a person in their wheelchair without their permission – it’s an assault. They don’t see the criminality.
“It’s happening all the time in communities and yet it’s not talked about – incidents are just not being reported.”
PC Weldon grew up with his older brother Barry, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and autism after contracting meningitis as a baby.
At 16 years old, PC Weldon began two years as his brother’s carer until he went to university.
“I saw being a carer as a positive. It made me a better person and more empathetic,” said PC Weldon, who after graduating, joined a travel agent which specialises in holidays for people with disabilities.
“I enjoyed the disability sector which inspired to join the police as I am motivated to help people,” he said.
PC Weldon said through his role, he can help educate the community about hate crimes, such as school visits and other community events, and use those opportunities to explain that not all disabilities are obvious.
“For example, in one incident, there was a man with muscular dystrophy who struggled to walk, and often stumbled,” he recalled.
“People assumed he was drunk, and someone thought it would be funny to run over to him and push him over – he couldn’t get back up.”
PC Weldon said he is “on a mission” to encourage people to report hate crimes – not just to bring perpetrators to justice, but also for the wellbeing of victims.
“Often perpetrators don’t realise the impact these seemingly ‘minor’ incidents can have on the confidence of someone with a disability. Victims can easily become isolated because they don’t feel safe to go out,” he said.
“And that also to applies to those who have recently become disabled, for example, amputees, who are trying to get used to a new way of life,” he said.
“If incidents are reported, even if you don’t get a description of the perpetrator, we can also look at trends and increase our patrols where the incident took place. We can look to see if there’s a wider trend and target these groups.”
But PC Weldon said it is also about educating, to encourage perpetrators to see the error of their ways which can be done with out of court disposals or a process like Restorative Justice.
“There are online courses such as anger management and thinking skills. There is also restorative justice – a voluntary process, facilitated by trained practitioners, which enables victims to communicate with an offender in a controlled environment to address the harm caused.
“It’s instead of just putting them in cuffs and taking them to the cells, it’s about educating so it doesn’t happen again.”
PC Weldon said there is also the force’s Pegasus scheme for those who would struggle to report incidents to the police, especially in an emergency situation.
“I know there must be many people out there with communication needs who could benefit from joining Pegasus. I would urge anyone with a communication need to sign-up,” he said.
The Pegasus scheme is free, and by pre-registering your information with the force, we can access it quickly if you call us just by saying the word ‘Pegasus’. You don’t need to repeat all your details.
To sign-up or for more information about the Pegasus scheme visit: https://www.cambs.police.uk/contact/af/contact-us/us/contact-us/sspegasus-scheme/pegasus-scheme
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