Police officers deal with trauma every single day, and it shapes many aspects of their work. For example:

  • Many perpetrators have experienced trauma in their lives, which is often the root of anti-social and criminal behaviour.

  • Victims of crime are sometimes traumatised by their experiences, which can affect their ability to assist officers in their investigations.

  • Officers’ experience high stress levels due to the nature of their work, including through the knock-on effects of encountering so many traumatised people.

  • Officers may unintentionally add to trauma in the course of their work, or trigger existing issues in the people they interact with.

This helps explain why a growing number of forces across the UK are exploring trauma-informed approaches and, in some areas, helping lead the way on trauma-informed community initiatives. Here are two examples of the impact these approaches have had in the US.

 

Baltimore, Maryland (US)

Baltimore’s police force had been criticised by the Justice Department for years of sloppy, careless responses to reports of sexual assault.

As part of their attempts to improve their act, the force switched from interviewing victims in stark-white rooms to ones designed around trauma-informed principles, helping the person relax and giving the impression they were there to be supported.

Here is what that shift from a traditional setting to a trauma-informed one looks like:

   

 

Kansas City, Missouri (US)

Captain Darren Ivey of the Kansas City police force in Missouri noticed worrying negative trends among his officers, with, for example, high rates of attempted suicide and domestic violence incidents. Occupational stress was sending many of his colleagues over the edge.

Working with the Truman Medical Center and within a trauma-informed community initiative in the city, Captain Ivey co-created a 4-hour training course on secondary trauma for his officers. It covered how to recognise stress and trauma, understanding its physical and emotional impact, and how to build resilience against it.

  • From the results of 1,500 feedback evaluations, 99.8% of officers found the course satisfactory or very satisfactory, with the vast bulk choosing the latter.

  • By May 2018, the course's reach had extended beyond the police and had been taught to over 2,000 people from over 250 agencies, including fire services, probation, hospitals and the military.