ADHD and Police: “Excuse Me, Officer, Do You Have ADHD?”


ADHD police

Of course, I didn’t ask him that — “Excuse Me, Officer, Do You Have ADHD?” Not exactly. Especially while he was writing my traffic citation. But afterward, we chatted and I happened to mention Adult ADHD. He assumed I could somehow tell that he has it.

Let me explain.

Neighborhood merchants have been complaining to the police department about drivers making dangerous U-turns. The ensuing dragnet caught me.

(Who knew that turning left into a diagonal parking slot on a pokey little street constitutes a U-turn?)

At any rate, I’d never pulled this move before. Parking was tight, rain was falling, and my post-surgical gimpy foot limited the distance I could walk to the bank. But alas, that’s been my lot since the first day at parochial school: never getting away with a darn thing, even on the first attempt.

I Got A Warning. He Got A Tip.

The officer was cordial and professional. I apologized for my unwitting transgression. When he handed me a warning, my gratitude prompted me to offer him one of my books (a case is always in the trunk).

After all, I knew the greater risks of incarceration among the undiagnosed ADHD population. I’d even helped, pro bono, to edit ADHD and the Criminal Justice System: Spinning Out of Control (by Pat Hurley, a veteran law-enforcement officer, and psychologist Robert Eme).

Tragic escalations can take place when police officers don’t realize the person they’ve stopped has ADHD—or do not understand what ADHD means.

“By the way, do you know about Adult ADHD?” I asked him. And before I could say, “I’d like to give you a book that might prove helpful on the job,” he responded, “Know about ADHD? I have ADHD. Diagnosed 12 years ago by Dr. X.”

I knew about Dr. X, a kindly psychiatrist who was a local pioneer in treating ADHD. He’d died recently, at age 72, in a tragic motorcycle accident.

“Lots of Cops Have ADHD, You Know”

In that psychiatrist’s obituary, I mentioned to the officer, his daughter said that her dad would sometimes lose his focus on the windy mountain road near their home and underestimate a turn. Reading it, I remember wondering if the doc had ADHD himself.

“I love riding motorcycles, too,” this officer said, with a big smile. “Lots of police officers have ADHD, you know.”

“But how did you know I have ADHD?” he said. “Can you tell just by looking at me?”

Not at all, I told him. I mentioned it solely in the context of his work, that he might find the knowledge helpful. Then I handed him a copy of my first book: Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?

“You know,” he continued, eyeing the book’s cover, “I’m 56 and have never been married. I was engaged once but it didn’t work out. Relationships just don’t work for me.”

“Maybe it’s not you, maybe it’s the ADHD.,” I said.

Of course, I couldn’t give him the book, he pointed out. We might be accused of bribery! Yet, I felt sure it would offer him some answers and, I hoped, some solutions. He accepted a bookmark. Then, noticing another illegal maneuver a few yards away, continued keeping our streets safe from the scofflaw likes of me.

Comments welcome; no registration necessary and no words to decipher!

9 thoughts on “ADHD and Police: “Excuse Me, Officer, Do You Have ADHD?””

  1. Neat story. 🙂

    ADHD and motorcycles go together like NOPE. Unless well-treated, of course, and a personal pledge to never drive when not on the medication.

    My husband has always wanted one but I’m so glad he recognizes his personal level of ADHD driving impairments pretty much rules it out. I’m not sure I’d ever relax if he had one!

    His driving was the first place I noticed his medication was working, however, the first time he got behind the wheel medicated. All that unnecessary braking, last minute braking, awkward lane changes, missed turns, all gone and replaced with smooth sailing overnight. It was rather amazing.

    I’d still rather not bring in a motorcycle, however.

    I’d love to see statistics on police with ADHD, just percentages. It would be a neat study, too, for a sample of police who have not ever been diagnosed before to be evaluated. I have a few friends who are cops and apparently it’s a thing to say “If I wasn’t a cop, I’d probably be in prison.” I don’t quite understand what that means but we do already have some stats on ADHD in prison populations. Interesting.

    1. Hi Chloe,

      It IS amazing. Now, if only the rest of the world would catch on. 😉

      I haven’t seen statistics on ADHD in the police force. But it’s commonly accepted as truth, for police departments, fire departments, etc.


  2. My 20 year old son was diagnosed with ADD as a child but then of course, it was thought he outgrew the condition. Of course, he has not but everytime I bring it up he won’t listen. It is so obvious he has this condition based upon his behavior patterns. He really does tend to get himself into miscommunication trouble when stopped by the police(which happens often to young men in our town). About a year ago, he decided out of the blue he wanted to be a firefighter or paramedic! Reading what all of you have written about just further confirms his diagnosis in my mind. Now if I could just get him to see a doctor.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Katharine, Jaelle and Betsy.

    Vicki, I’m not surprised at all that you didn’t make the connection. I hear this all the time. ADHD is one tricky condition — a real shape shifter.

    At our adult ADHD meeting last night, there were 20 (new!) people, and while they all had many experiences in common, you would never know it in a social setting. All very different people and different challenges.

    Will you be attending the ADDISS conference March 30-April 1? I will be speaking April 1 at the conference, and I will present a talk free to the public on March 31. Maybe I will see you there!

  4. Having lived with my partner for 12yrs, you’d think I’d of noticed his ADHD before now, being that I work with adults both diagnosed and undiagnosed with this ‘difference’. Talk about not seeing the wood for the trees!

    He is a specialised Police Officer in the UK and has unpredictable shift patterens and no routine to speak of (something he finds hard to cope with). Before this, he worked as a fireman and yes, there were relatively few fires to deal with.

    I think the combination of intense/close working relationships and the occasional adrenaline rush are what attract him to these areas of work. It seems people with ADHD end up involved with the police in one capacility or other!

  5. betsy davenport, phd

    I have long wondered what the fire fighters with AD/HD do when there is no fire, which is most of the time. Those guys typically hang around the firehouse. Somebody cooks (great food, I am told) and everybody eats. They have cots and sleep when they need to.

    So if you’re one of those people, and you can’t stand boredom, what is that time like?

    The same question applies to the ER doc or ICU nurse, and what they do when there isn’t anything popping.

  6. Jaelle n'ha Gilla

    *lol* Great story well told. It does make sense what Katherine said. A friend of mine with ADHD works as a social worker for near criminal youngsters. Not much of a schedule or a routine but very much stimulation indeed 🙂

  7. Great story. Now that I think about it, it makes sense that it would be common for police officers (and probably firefighters and emergency-department personnel) to have ADHD; there’s no lack of stimulation on the job.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stay in Touch!
Ride the ADHD Roller Coaster
Without Getting Whiplash!
Receive Gina Pera's award-winning blog posts and news of webinars and workshops.
P.S. Your time and privacy—Respected.
No e-mail bombardment—Promised.
No Thanks!