Trauma-informed approaches in policing

Recognition of the prevalence and impact of trauma has led to a motivation for all public-facing sectors to become trauma-informed. This project investigates various aspects of trauma-informed approaches in police. 

Trauma-informed approaches describe a cultural shift in services towards recognising and responding appropriately to trauma in people who access a service and preventing re-traumatisation. As a first step, staff training packages on trauma, its impacts and presentation are common and have been shown to result in positive attitude change in service providers. Yet little is understood about police staff’s responses to training, especially as the police is a service with cultural and organisational aims that differ to other public-facing services. 

This work stream evaluated projects relating to the adoption of trauma-informed practice in police:

Study 1 conducted a mixed-methods evaluation of an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) awareness-raising intervention in Ayrshire. This examined demographic correlates of attitudes towards trauma-informed practice and provided in-depth qualitative information on how officers conceptualise the relevance of ACEs knowledge for police work, as well as identifying barriers to practical implementation. 

Study 2 conducted a multi-perspective qualitative case study of a police custody unit in Glasgow, where all staff had engaged with the NHS Education Scotland National Trauma Training Framework package of training. This project synthesised views from custody staff (officers and civilian staff), senior staff with responsibility for custody suites, and keyworkers from an aligned support service to which custody referrals are made. The results provide insight into issues with operationalisation of trauma-informed knowledge in practice in day-to day policing, as well as identifying areas to be addressed in the longer-term adoption of trauma-informed practice in policing.  

Future work will be oriented towards further defining the concept of trauma-informed practice in relation to policing and providing further insight into operationalisation of trauma-informed tenets for police services.  

Funded by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research.


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