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A peek into the latest policing research from the SEBP - issue 15

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Space constraints mean we could only provide the briefest summaries of some interesting and important research in the 15th issue of the SEBP newsletter. These do not do the studies justice, but have hopefully piqued your curiosity enough to bring you here.


A feasibility study of psychological first aid as a supportive intervention among police officers exposed to traumatic events by Steve Geoffrion, Marie-Pierre Leduc, Elody Bourgouin, François Bellemare, Valérie Arenzon, Christine Genest

Police officers are often exposed to traumatic events, which can induce psychological distress and increase the risk of developing post-traumatic stress injuries. Psychological first aid (PFA), offering humane, supportive and practical help to those suffering serious crisis events, has been promoted to prevent psychological distress. This study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, aimed to evaluate the feasibility of PFA as an early intervention among police officers in Quebec, Canada. 36 police officers participated in semi-structured interviews between October 26th, 2021, and July 23rd, 2022. Interviews were transcribed, coded, and evaluated according to a thematic analysis. In this study, PFA was provided by supervisors. An inductive thematic analysis was used to assess the demand, practicality, and acceptability of PFA. First, the findings revealed that PFA met the needs of the participants. Second, analysis showed that PFA was successfully adapted to policing reality and culture. Third, implementation occurred without major issues. Finally, the program had positive impacts on individuals and on their perception of organisational support. Specifically, PFA destigmatised mental health issues and renewed a sense of hope among police personnel.

Comparing panic alarm systems for high-risk domestic abuse victims: a randomised controlled trial on prevention and criminal justice system outcomes by William Hodgkinson Barak Ariel and Vincent Harinam

Giving panic alarm systems to victims of domestic abuse is becoming increasingly popular. However, tests of these devices are rare. Consequently, it is unknown whether domestic abuse offenders are deterred by warning stickers informing them that a panic alarm system is installed on the premises, or whether alarm systems reduce domestic abuse recidivism. There is also insufficient data regarding whether adding an audio-recording feature to the panic alarm results in more prosecutions compared to standard panic alarm systems. This randomised controlled trial (RCT) published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology investigates the relative effect of a new system incorporating both a warning sticker outside the victim’s premises and audio-recording capabilities compared with the existing ‘call for immediate assistance-only’ panic alarms. The design incorporates a simple trickle-flow RCT across 13 MPS boroughs. Police officers allocated 300 eligible high-risk domestic abuse victims in London with either a standard panic alarm system or one with audio-recording capabilities and a red warning sticker. Multiple measures were compared six months before and after the trial to assess the treatment effects (including the number of calls for service, recorded crimes, and harm score), and a negative binomial generalised linear model was utilised to estimate the likelihood of criminal charges for domestic abuse offenders. There was an overall reduction in both treatment area, but there were no statistically significant differences between the two types of alarm systems across these crime measures. Nevertheless, the estimation model indicated a significant 57 per cent increase in charges using the audio recording alarm relative to the standard panic alarm system. The researchers concluded using stickers to warn of panic alarm systems does not lead to a reduction in subsequent harm to victims, but audio recording systems provide valuable evidence that increases subsequent charges, and thus, should be explored further.


Operation Soteria Bluestone Rape and sexual assault survivors’ experience of the police in England and Wales Survey Report I: January – June 2023 by Katrin Hohl, Abigail-Kate Reid, Sarah Molisso, and Merili Pullerits


The way police interact with survivors and approach their cases can be life changing. This report documents the first findings of an ongoing online survey of survivors of rape and sexual assault and their experiences of the police as part of Operation Soteria Bluestone, which aims to transform the way rape is investigated in England and Wales. The report contains the voices of the 1,968 survivors with police experience who completed the survey between 16 January and 30 June 2023. A further 190 survivors whose cases are not known to the police shared insights into why they chose not to report. A minority of respondents detailed how officers have protected them from further sexual violence or abuse, and some provided moving accounts of officers treating them with tremendous kindness, empathy, and care, and of officers going above and beyond to ensure a thorough investigation and to secure a conviction. However, these cases were rare. Three out of four survivors who completed this survey said that their mental health has worsened as a direct result of what the police did, or failed to do, in their case. Only 37 per cent of respondents said that officers made them feel like they mattered and 37 per cent that officers mostly/always took their needs into account. 42 per cent of respondents did not feel believed. More than half of respondents reported a negative impact on their physical health because of their police experience. The survey remains open to all rape and sexual assault survivors who want to share their experience of the police in England and Wales until 30 June 2024. A follow up survey report is due to published in September 2024.

Online fraud: what does the public think? Insights Report by Amber Evans, Fernanda Reynoso-Serna, Freya Smith, Dr Ellie Brown, and Sophie Davis


Most people are more worried about the effects of online fraud than other crimes, such as knife crime, burglary and sexual offences, according to a new large-scale survey. The report published by Crest Advisory as part of a project conducted with the Police Foundation and Birkbeck College, and funded by the Dawes Trust, is the first of several publications forming part of a major research project into online fraud. It is based on two large-scale surveys; a nationally representative survey with 3,672 members of the general public and a survey of 800 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across England and Wales. Fraud is more common than believed, with 22 per cent of the general public reporting being victims of online fraud in the past 12 months, notably higher than the 7.8 per cent (both offline and online) estimated by the Crime Survey for England and Wales. The poll found that young people were the group most likely to be affected by online fraud, even though half of those questioned believed the elderly were most at risk. The survey also shows a lack of awareness about reporting allegations of online fraud, with only 29 per cent knowing how to go about it. Whilst some victims reported harms in terms of financial loss, more reported that the online fraud had an emotional and psychological impact on them, ranging from shame and embarrassment to anxiety, depression and disturbed sleep. 20 per cent of online fraud victims said their physical health had suffered and 33 per cent reported a psychological impact. These findings suggest that more work is needed to better understand the profile of victims of cyber-fraud and target responses accordingly.

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