SUFFOLK Police have signed up to a campaign to tackle abuse of people with disabilities.
Mencap is encouraging police forces around the country to ensure officers are more aware of how they respond to people who report they have been verbally or physically abused.
The charity conducted research with Suffolk Police and 13 other forces before launching its Stand By Me campaign against disability hate crime.
The research showed the levels of disability hate crime were much higher than reported.
The figures showed that in 2009/10 there were 138 incidents and in 2010/11 106.
Earlier this year disability support charity Optua helped to close down a Facebook page which was based in Suffolk and appeared to be making fun of people with a learning disability or mental health issue.
Assistant Chief Constable Paul Marshall, of Suffolk Police signed up to Mencap’s policing promise and said the force was committed to eradicating such crime, which he said could have a ‘devastating effect’ not only on victims, but also their families and the wider community.
“We want victims to have a voice. We want people to come forward to report hate incidents, so we can bring offenders to account for their actions. We will treat all victims with sensitivity and discretion,” he said.
James Powell, spokesman for Optua, which is a part of Suffolk Hate Crime Service steering group, said: “We are pleased to hear that Suffolk Police are signing up to this pledge.
“Disability hate crime has historically been under-reported so it’s important that we all work together to raise awareness and encourage people with learning disabilities to feel more confident about reporting hate crime.”
Mencap’s report has 22 recommendations as to how forces can improve their service, recommending a more accountable and joined-up approach to tackling disability hate crime. It also suggests specialist officers should focus on such crimes and training should be given to all officers to help them spot and tackle incidents.
Mark Goldring, Mencap chief executive, said: “It is estimated that as many as nine out of 10 people with a learning disability are verbally harassed or exposed to violence due to their disability.”
All reported hate incidents are thoroughly investigated by Suffolk Police, with people able to contact officers through the website, via 999 or Suffolk Hate Crime service on 01473 668966
Readers can visit www.mencap.org.uk or call 0300 333111.