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A peek into the latest policing research from the SEBP - issue 18

Space constraints mean we could only provide the briefest summaries of some interesting and important research in the 18th issue of the SEBP newsletter. These do not do the studies justice, but have hopefully piqued your curiosity enough to bring you here.

Post-traumatic Embitterment Disorder in UK Authorised Firearms Officers Following Post-incident Procedures: A Cross-Sectional Web Survey by Chloe Brennan and Jon Cole 

In the UK, authorised firearms officers (AFOs) may be subject to a post-incident investigation when a weapon was discharged. This study is the first to demonstrate that these post-incident procedures can be linked to an increased risk of developing post-traumatic embitterment disorder (PTED). PTED is defined as chronic feelings of bitterness and anger resulting from a perceived injustice or trauma. The condition can trigger a range of mental and physical symptoms ranging from intrusive thoughts and loss of appetite to suicidal ideation. Researchers surveyed 40 UK AFOs with experience of a post-incident procedure following a firearms-related incident to judge their levels of post-traumatic embitterment disorder (PTED). Potential predictors and outcomes were measured using surveys of personal and general belief in a just world (BJW), including belief in distributive justice (i.e., fair outcomes) and procedural justice (i.e., fair processes), anger, and social desirability. It found 15 percent of participants displayed clinically relevant levels of post-traumatic embitterment disorder (PTED). Having a possible PTSD and/or depression diagnosis, feeling as though the post-incident procedure and subsequent treatment were more problematic than the incident itself, and a lack of belief in personal distributive justice, increased the risk of experiencing PTED. The study, published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology suggests measures are needed to ensure the post-incident procedure delivers fair outcomes and that AFOs are given the right targeted support throughout the process.

Arrested Children: How to keep children safe and reduce reoffending by Peter Henderson, Jo Reilly and Caleb Jackson

There is strong evidence that diverting children who have committed low-level or first-time offences, rather than taking them to court, can protect them from future involvement in crime and violence. But there are currently a number of barriers preventing young people from being successfully diverted away from crime. This report by the Youth Endowment Fund recommends seven changes for improving support for arrested children which it will help implement over the next five years. These

  • Ensure the police have the incentives to use diversion, which is currently discouraged under current crime outcomes reporting framework

  • Work with partners to ensure police are supported to identify and refer vulnerable children, to address this underlying cause of crime.

  • Ensure funding reflects needs, as the current funding formula for youth justice services is out-of date and does not properly reflect informal diversionary work to reduce re-offending,

  • Fast and effective referrals as research suggests that speed of referral is important and should happen soon after an arrest occurs.

  • Prioritise what works. Not all support is effective: some approaches can reduce reoffending; others can make things worse.

  • Access to therapy. Large numbers of arrested children have unmet mental health needs. But very few receive any therapy to address this.

  • Better data. We know surprisingly little on who is diverted, what they receive, and what happens to them next.

Professional Motivations in the Public Sector: Evidence from Police Officers by Aaron Chalfin and Felipe M. Gonçalves

Police officers have broad discretion in how they carry out their work, so law enforcement agencies are often concerned about the professionalism of their staff and seek to attract employees who are intrinsically motivated towards their work. There is concern among researchers that officers may carry out low-quality late-shift arrests in order to secure access to overtime pay, a practice known as as “collars for dollars”. This working paper is the first to examine this theory by exploring what motivates officers to make arrests and whether the arrest rates change as officers near the end of their shifts. The research, focusing on data from Dallas Police Department, used data linking records on 911 calls, police officer shift assignments, off-duty work, arrests, and associated court outcomes. It found, instead of chasing overtime payments by making lower quality arrests towards the end of their shifts, officers actually make, fewer, better quality arrests. Published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research, it suggests officers are averse to working overtime, but are motivated by professional pride to arrest those they feel to be guilty even if it means negatively affecting their personal lives.

Racial Inequality in Firearm Homicide Victimisation—but not Other Types of US Violence by Alex R. Piquero

This study seeks to uncover disproportionalities around violent crime victimisation, to ascertain whether rates are higher in general among US minority groups or whether these distinct failures of equal protection by race relate only to firearm homicide. It found Black Americans are 12 times more likely to be murdered using a firearm than white Americans. The study also showed Hispanic Americans are twice as likely to be shot dead than white people. This is despite the fact that, for most other violent crimes, victimisation rates are the same regardless of race, with white people more likely to fall victim to some types of violent crimes. This finding was reached using a framework which compared per capita rates of violent victimisation for Blacks, Hispanics and whites from the National Crime Victimisation Survey as well as firearm homicide data from the US Centre for Disease Control. The scientific communication, published in the Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing, provides more evidence to police and policy-makers to aid them in ensuring crime prevention activities are targeted to the communities that need them most. It also makes the case for urgent action before more young lives are lost.

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