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A peek into the latest policing research from the SEBP - issue 12

Space constraints mean we could only provide the briefest summaries of some interesting and important research in the 12th issue of the SEBP newsletter. These do not do the studies justice, but have hopefully piqued your curiosity enough to bring you here.

‘Holding onto trauma?’ The prevalence and predictors of PTSD, anxiety and depression in police officers working with child abuse, rape and sexual exploitation victims by Jim Foley, Fergal Jones, Alex Hassett, Emma Williams

Police are in the unique position of being a combination of crime fighter, rescue worker, counsellor, psychologist and social worker due to the routine and occupational exposure to violence, danger and traumatic events. Exposure to trauma is a hazard of the job but can leave officers at high risk of developing psychological injuries. This study, published in The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles is one of the first to examine, in a UK context, the prevalence and predictors of PTSD and common mental disorders. The study employed a cross-sectional survey design with nearly 400 officers who completed an online survey. It found around 23% of officers have potentially clinical levels of PTSD, 26% have moderate to severe levels of anxiety and 35% have moderate to severe levels of depression and 12.7% were potentially experiencing clinical levels of all three. Female officers, those of constable rank, those working with victims of child abuse, and those with lowest levels of social support have poorer mental health. The results highlighted that those with higher levels of social support had significantly lower levels of PTSD and CMDs. Statistical analysis tentatively showed social support statistically moderated the relationship between tenure in unit and depression, such that for those with the lowest levels of social support, longer tenure predicted higher depression, while for those with higher levels of social support, this relationship no longer existed. The researchers recommended further research into social support as a protective factor.

Police Response Time and Injury Outcomes by Gregory DeAngelo, Marina Toger and Sarit Weisburd

While it is often assumed that faster response times could play an important role in quelling potentially violent incidents, there has been little empirical evidence to support this claim. This paper, published in The Economic Journal, examines whether faster response time by police officers can have both an immediate and a long-term effect on community safety. This paper focuses on 20,933 emergency 911 calls for service placed to the Dallas Police Department (DPD) in 2009 that were classified as ‘Major Disturbance—Violence’ incidents. Focusing on this specific call category, researchers analysed the role of response time in determining whether the incident results in an injury. They took into account police response time and the number of vehicles within a 2.5-mile radius of the incident at the time it is received by the call centre. When controlling for beat, month and time-of-day fixed effects, this instrumenting strategy allowed them to take advantage of the geographical constraints faced by a dispatcher when assigning officers to an incident. Their two-stage least squares analysis established a strong causal relationship whereby increasing response time increases the likelihood that an incident results in an injury. The effect is concentrated among female victims, suggesting that faster response time could potentially play an important role in reducing injuries related to domestic violence.

The superhero effect: How enclothed cognition can impact on the perceptions and actions of serving UK police officers by Tom Andrews

In order for Clark Kent to save lives he must first don a distinctive costume and transform into Superman. For British police officers, the transformative idea of their uniform as an invulnerability shield is well-known anecdotally, but no studies have yet formalised this idea empirically. This article, published in The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles examines the world view of uniformed British police officers and seeks to understand whether their uniform impacts on their attitudes and behaviours. ‘Enclothed cognition’ is the idea that clothing, and the societal expectations surrounding certain garments, can affect the behaviours of the wearer. Using qualitative and quantitative data from a survey of 91 uniformed officers, the suggest that their uniform does indeed affect how they behave and their perceptions of self, and how the public perceives them. A majority of officers appeared to agree with the ‘superhero effect’ that uniform does make them feel more invulnerable. The study found officers felt more professional in traditional uniform, of white shirt and custodian/bowler hat. But they complained of lack of comfort, especially for women. Ultimately the researchers found that better uniform boosted officers wellbeing and led to better performance and make a number of recommendations on how uniform can be improved to be comfortable and traditional.

Conditions, Actions and Purposes (CAP): A Dynamic Model for Community Policing in Europe by Megan O’Neill, Mark van der Giessen, Petra Saskia Bayerl, Yvonne Hail, Elizabeth Aston and Jarmo Houtsonen

Despite its popularity as a policing method and evidence of its positive effect on communities, community policing has defied attempts to establish a clear definition and replicable form. One reason is that community policing (CP) is meant to

be adaptable to its social and geographical context, meaning that its implementation varies between locations. However, without some clear core principles, CP risks losing coherence and becoming undervalued as a policing method. This research, published in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, seeks to establish an empirically grounded model for CP that identifies the structure and interdependencies between the core elements of CP and provides flexibility for implementation. Drawing on 323 interviews with community members and police officers across eight countries, the researchers propose a dynamic model for community policing. In this original model, they differentiate between the conditions, actions and purposes of community policing (CAP) and describe how these core components are required for effective community policing, interrelated, and flexible enough for local implementation. Accordingly, they show how the CAP model is adaptable while at the same time retaining a sense of what makes ‘community policing’ a unique and identifiable policing method.

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