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Trauma Resilience in UK Policing


Extensive qualitative research (i.e. focus groups, consultation and job shadowing) was undertaken through Autumn 2018 and into Spring 2019 with SO15 & Counter-Terrorism, emergency call handling, online Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and firearms units. We uncovered how individuals develop unique skills and coping mechanisms to process trauma exposure and provide recommendations for training, assessment and wellbeing support for those in similar high-risk roles.

Key findings include:

  • Making sense of trauma exposure in Call Handling is more to do with information processing and compassion management than situational awareness (as with processing live incidents attended in person). Learning to ‘let go’ of calls and needing to know what happened to cases is key to resilience. This may require more deliberate use of PfC areas of the brain to make decisions about information and to manage compassion and empathy. 

  • In tactical operations in firearms and Counter-Terrorism, the training given on the job for situational awareness and having a specific task to do in a live incident seems to have a protective effect against trauma impact. Situational awareness is good practice for hippocampal regions to help make sense of traumatic incidents and the proactive agency of task-oriented work likely activates PfC areas of the brain which are key to resilience. 

  • Child Sexual Exploitation and digital exposure are particularly challenging for trauma resilience and qualitative research revealed that practical management of work stations (such as using screen filters and being positioned near a window) can help the immediate impact of immersion in material. Notions of shame and collusion due to safeguarding responsibilities seemed to exacerbate trauma impact to unmanageable levels in many cases. 

The research has been used to produce new guidance on viewing explicit digital material, a call handling trauma resilience training module, Command Training for Counter-Terrorism and Senior Investigative Officer training. The findings will also inform bespoke trauma processing techniques training material for these specialist areas for the ‘Train-The-Trainer’ programme 2019-2020. 

For more information please contact Dr Jess Miller by email at either or

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processed-7607bc32-902b-4cec-822c-ab29467a0ccd_mfykmuy2.jpeg Article in the Sunday Times featuring our research on working conditions and PTSD in contemporary UK policing, see: What it’s really like to be a police officer: ‘We get called murderers and rapists’ | The Sunday Times Magazine | The Sunday Times (

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