West Yorkshire Police is facing criticism and an official complaint after a 16-year-old autistic girl was reportedly dragged out of her house when she made a comment about an officer looking like her lesbian grandmother.
The girl was arrested for a homophobic public order offence on Monday (7 August), police confirmed to PinkNews, with viral footage of the incident sparking outrage.
The girl’s mother, Lisa Rozycki, captured the incident on TikTok, saying that the teenager had said an officer “looked like her nanna, who is a lesbian” while officers were visiting their home, and that the officer “took it the wrong way and said it was homophobic”.
The text on the video claims: “My daughter was having panic attacks from being touched by them and they still continued to manhandle her.”
Charities have explained that the incident highlights the need for training on autism within the police force, with the National Autistic Society pointing out that it has been campaigning for mandatory training “for years”.
The National Autistic Society explained that autism can cause extreme anxiety in situations like the one seen in the video, and that police could be better equipped in their interactions with autistic people.
Tim Nicholls, the head of influencing and research at the National Autistic Society, said: “While we can’t comment on the specifics of this case, as we don’t know all the details, autistic people can find communicating difficult and can become extremely anxious in situations they don’t understand.
“It’s essential that police officers understand autism, and that specialist support is available when needed. We’ve been calling for mandatory training for police officers for years, and strongly believe the government should make this happen.”
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell lambasted the decision to arrest the girl and tweeted that West Yorkshire Police should “go fight some real crime”.
A spokesperson for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said that an official complaint has been made to the West Yorkshire Professional Standards Directorate, and that police are currently investigating the incident.
“We are aware of this incident and have contacted West Yorkshire Police and requested further details,” the spokesperson said.
“While these processes are on-going, we cannot comment further.”
The incident occurred after the force received “calls from a family member of a 16-year-old girl who was reportedly intoxicated and putting herself at risk in Leeds city centre”, the police said.
Assistant chief constable Oz Khan said in a statement: “We are aware of a video circulating on social media which, as is often the case, only provides a very limited snapshot of the circumstances of this incident.
“Officers had their body-worn video cameras activated during their wider involvement with this young girl which provides additional context to their actions.”
The girl was released on bail pending further enquiries, he added.
“Officers attended at about 1am and drove the teenager to her home so she could be appropriately looked after,” he went on to say.
“Upon returning her to the address, comments were made which resulted in the girl being arrested on suspicion of a homophobic public order offence. The nature of the comments made was fully captured on body-worn video.
“When the girl was eventually fit to be interviewed, that interview took place with an appropriate adult.
“We are fully reviewing the circumstances of this incident and ask that people avoid reaching any conclusions about it solely on the basis of the social media video.”