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Trauma resilience in frontline policing

exploring how to better support the brain’s ability to process trauma exposure and maintain resilience in contemporary operational policing

Visit the project microsite

What's it all about?

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.

Police Care UK has funded a team at Cambridge University to undertake four key themes (see below. Together, we are providing practical techniques, training material, and evidence-based insight to bring real effective change to trauma management for police officers and staff, volunteers, and their families.

The project has asked three key questions:

  • How can our understanding of healthy trauma processing in the human brain be applied in operational policing to help regular officers process difficult incidents?
  • What can we learn from officers, staff and volunteers about processing atypical trauma exposure, such as explicit digital material, taking emergency calls, working in firearms or Counter-Terrorism? and
  • Can we establish a new evidence-base to address trauma management, wellbeing and working conditions in UK policing?

We have now answered these questions and are now working with decision-makers and police officers and staff across the UK to bring about real change to on-the-job trauma processing, to everyday working practices in at-risk roles and to awareness-raising and support for those with PTSD.

Trauma exposure is part of everyday policing, but its impact on the wellbeing and function of officers and staff across the service has been overlooked, with severe consequences for individuals' mental health, for organisational culture, and for public safety. Being supported in managing trauma on the job should be a right for all officers and staff who commit to this unique public service.

We hope this research can empower forces and inspire decision-makers to invest in trauma resilience at a time when UK policing needs it most.

Key findings

Trauma processing techniques are teachable and well received

Making sense of difficult incidents is something which operational police need to get good at so that they can go from one job to the next (and home after) healthily.

At-risk roles can be better supported to improve trauma resilience

Little behavioural research on forms of trauma which may be unique to contemporary policing exists - which is why it has to change.

Trauma management needs improving to address CPTSD, working conditions and job quality

Our new evidence-base provides the first ever insight into trauma exposure, impact and its management in contemporary policing.

Who's involved

The project, funded by Police Care UK, is being delivered by the Sociology department at the University of Cambridge.

A steering group has been established, with expertise from clinicians, academics, and across policing:

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