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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

Latest news

Author's story

26 January 2024

The Marshwood Vale magazine of the South West features a front cover piece on Dr Jess Miller and how she found herself working in trauma resilience. To read a bit more about how the personal meets the professional, honouring the trusted adage "Re-search is Me-search", click here.

BLOG: The Policing Mind one year on

22 June 2023

Here Dr Jess talks about how her first book The Policing Mind: Trauma Resilience for a New Era has had impact since 2022: Transforming Society ~ Getting inside the policing mind In doing so, the book as been passed to the Home Secretary in the hope of further change to our police service being more trauma informed and open...

The Lancet featuring our trauma resilience project and trauma impact prevention techniques (TIPT)

23 March 2023

We are absolutely delighted to share that our project has featured in an essay by Jules Morgan in The Lancet Psychiatry on 21st March. Here is an extract : "People are only just starting to talk about complex PTSD, but we need to act now, says Jessica Miller (University of Cambridge, UK, and Police Care UK), Principal...

More project talk...