Landmark study to bolster the resilience of police officers

Police officers console each other 

A landmark research project will help NSW Police Force develop fresh solutions to help officers become more resilient and assist those suffering from stress-related illness.

The three-year project will see academics from the University of Western Sydney and the Australian Catholic University survey all sworn officers and police employees and conduct further study to develop, for the first time, a scientific analysis of the NSW Police Force.

Funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant, the project will investigate every police command in NSW to determine what keeps officers happy and healthy in the face of adversity.

Findings of the study will be used to further develop psychological tools to help the entire workforce deal with stress and trauma.

By emphasising a scientific understanding of what makes police officers fit and well, the project will develop a new approach driven by positive psychology, which is world-renowned in helping people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related illnesses.

Former detective Dr Michael Kennedy, from the University of Western Sydney, says the study will provide NSW Police with the tools it needs to provide officers with the best help possible.

"This project will allow us to provide the state government and NSW Police the scientific base they need to create the best policies to help officers cope with the incredible demands of the job," he says.

Study media conference 

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione says stress awareness and management is crucial.

"The nature of policing is that often officers will not have control over events that lead to stress and trauma, so it's important we look after our mental health," the Commissioner said.

"Through this project, we aim to help officers become more resilient, assist those already suffering PTSD to achieve better mental health outcomes and allow us to better help officers who have already disengaged."

Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres says police deal with people at their worst, which can impact an officer's psychological well-being.

"Our emergency services are there for the community to help us during our most traumatic experiences, to look out for us when no one else can," the Minister said.

"In turn, this project will ensure there is someone to look out for our police when they need support and help them enjoy well-lived and fulfilled lives.

To gain a better understanding of the NSW Police Force, researchers will:

  • Survey all police officers and civilian employees to gather crucial information about their work patterns, job satisfaction and health status
  • Conduct interviews with officers of varying service and rank  from across the state to gain an in-depth understanding of critical staff issues, job characteristics and organisational cultural practices
  • Include additional information from new recruits at the Police Academy, officers on medical and disability leave and retired officers
  • Interview Managers and Commanders about the characteristics of their command, including demographics, management practices and organisational culture

The data collected over three years of study will be used to shape future policies and programs of the NSW Police Force as officers continue to adapt to the changing demands of policing.

The project will be led by Professor Rhonda Craven from ACU, and will bring together representatives from NSW Police Force and researchers from UWS and ACU, as well as three universities internationally, who have a diverse range of expertise, including psychology, management, policing and criminology.

 Ends

21 July 2014

Contact: Senior Media Officer Mark Smith