Trauma resilience in UK policing

The Trauma Resilience in UK Policing project explores how to better support the brain’s ability to process trauma exposure and maintain resilience in contemporary operational policing.
Funded by the Police Dependants’ Trust, the team at Cambridge University will be developing practical techniques, training materials, and evidence-based insight into trauma exposure in UK policing with a view to bringing effective change to trauma management for police officers, staff, volunteers, and their families.

What are we doing?

The project itself has four key themes:

Preventative techniques to help process trauma exposure post-incident.

A Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) will be undertaken with new police officers beginning basic training using a full training programme around trauma resilience that equips them with the tools they need to better handle trauma exposure

The research team will then monitor the level of trauma impact on these participants, assessing them every four weeks over the course of a year. Their trauma impact data will be compared to the that of a control group from the same intake in order to gauge the extent to which such training can help individuals’ resilience to trauma.

The intent is to develop this programme, complete with the evidence to demonstrate efficacy, and then work with forces to implement it into the core training programme for all staff Nationally.

Resilience training skills

A feasibility study of self-directed neuroplasticity and resilience techniques is being planned for 2019 … the four day intensive course will require commitment and personal practice and will not be for the faint hearted! The course will be designed for those in specialist roles requiring high levels of cognitive agility.

Trauma Management Survey 

A National policing survey based on the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) is being designed to include new questions about psychological hazards, trauma exposure, and everyday policing.

Understanding atypical trauma and high-risk roles 

Qualitative research (i.e. focus groups, consultation and job shadowing) will be undertaken with colleagues from SO15 and Counter-Terrorism units, emergency call handling teams, online Child Sexual Exploitation investigators, and firearms units.

The aim of this is to uncover how individuals develop unique skills and coping mechanisms to process trauma exposure and provide recommendations for training, assessment and wellbeing support for those in similar high-risk roles.

Who is involved in the project?

The project is hosted at the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. Dr. Brendan Burchell is the Principle Investigator and Dr. Jess Miller as Research Associate.
Jess is also Research Fellow at the Police Dependants’ Trust and is responsible for the design and day-to-day delivery of the study, supported by Alex Peart.
The project is governed by a Steering Group with representation from sponsors, academia, clinicians, participating forces and national police wellbeing interventions.
  • Sponsor, Gill Scott-Moore, Chief Executive, Police Dependants’ Trust
  • National Wellbeing leads from the College of Policing
  • Welfare leads from the Police Federation of England & Wales
  • Clinical expertise in trauma management from Prof. Chris Brewin 
  • Chief Constables & Chief Medical Officers from participating UK police forces
  • Academic expertise in neuropsychology and sociology

What have we done so far?

February 2018: Qualitative work has been undertaken with Devon & Cornwall, Dorset, Greater Manchester, and Metropolitan police forces to uncover the coping techniques already in existence. Follow up sessions are planned later in the year.

May 2018: The RCT has commenced in Greater Manchester Police, with 46 new recruits having undergone a 3-day training session. They will now be completing 4-weekly assessments for the coming year.

How to find out more information

You can contact our research fellow, Dr. Jessica Miller who is leading on this work for the Trust by email to research@pdtrust.org.