Overview and recent history of police wellbeing research
Chief Constables hold a statutory responsibility to manage the welfare of their officers and staff, and Police and Crime Commissioners are there to hold them to account, drawing on evidence including the HMICFRS’s Integrated PEEL assessments (IPA) and Force Management Statements.
In July, 2018 the then Secretary of State for Policing and the Fire Service announced that, by 2021, welfare and wellbeing will be actively supported by every force so that every member of the police service can feel confident that they have access to support when they need it.
The Government commissioned a review of mental health and employers, which reported in October 2017 (Thriving at Work: Stevenson Farmer Review). A need for a better understanding of the efficacy of interventions was identified as key: which needed to involve various employers and Government departments talking to each other more to share more emergent joined-up understanding. Cited in the report, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School, Sir Cary Cooper identifies that workplace culture is key to delivering change; and that leadership in turn is key to delivering that culture.
Dr Ian Hesketh, a former police officer who completed a PhD at Lancaster University, developed the Key Facets to Wellbeing in 2014, which identified three main factors that affect workplace wellbeing. Dr Hesketh explains, “…firstly create an environment in which people can carry out meaningful work that accords with their sense of purpose in life. Secondly, evidence suggests leadership is key to employee wellbeing. Being well-led is fundamental and requires great skill and a sense of compassion. Thirdly, personal resilience is vital..”.
The creation of Oscar Kilo
A National Police Wellbeing Service working group was established, led by Chief Constable Andy Rhodes at Lancashire, which developed into Oscar Kilo in 2017, becoming the home of all things wellbeing from 2019. Oscar Kilo brings together matters relating to emergency services, creating a resource for research, collaboration and innovation. Supported by the College of Policing, NPCC and Home Office and linked to the Blue Light being Framework, this one-stop shop offers policing professionals ready access to information – so let’s have a look what’s on offer.
Oscar Kilo offers access to online assessments and learning (such as an 8 week course in mindfulness called MindFit Cop), space to share best practice and even book a wellbeing van to visit your force via the outreach service. Using the Oscar Kilo web search function by punching in https://oscarkilo.org.uk/?s=research you will find a huge variety of research reports, some of which we can showcase here in brief to hopefully encourage you to visit there for yourself. You can search under any specific topic too – so searching is easy and quick.
Policing best practice
Assistant Professor Katy Kambar, Clinical Psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) at the University of Toronto, along with Chief Superintendent Shahin Mehdizadeh of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police based at Edmonton, report on the impact of COVID-19 on police services in the open access Journal of Community Safety Knowledge. The two authors list a series of practical strategies for policing professionals for combatting the extra fatigue and pressures that the pandemic has brought with it. Kambar and Mehdizadeh (2020) discuss the increased risks from unknown threats and operational stress injuries that can occur linked to increased stress in service-related duties, including depression, anxiety disorder, PTSD and substance abuse. They suggest police professionals practice psychological flexibility to be more resilient and reflect on emotional boundaries to avoid potential burnout.
West Yorkshire Police teamed up with Professor Carol Atkinson and Dr Jackie Carter of the Decent Work and Productivity Research Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University to identify actions to improve the workplace to support menopause transition, which included policy refreshing and attention to detail in uniform provision (e.g. body armour) and in management practices.
Lancashire Constabulary worked with Professor Stuart Kirby and Drs Rebecca Coleman, Nathan Birdsall, Carol Cox and Laura Bolton at the University of Central Lancashire to explore the Blue Light Wellbeing Framework. This work scoped out a gap analysis nationally to help identify best practice and opportunities to improve. – you can read the interim (2019) report in full (access link below).
There’s a useful summary of the approaches used, and the research behind them, by the winners of the 2019 Oscar Kilo Awards, which cover the topics of leadership, absence management, creating the environment, mental health, personal resilience and protecting the workforce. Lincolnshire Police, for example, won the protecting the workforce category by working with the School of Sport Science at the University of Lincoln to create a robust physical activity readiness questionnaire, referral and evaluation process. Five members of Lincolnshire Police were supported as workplace Fitness Mentors, to achieve Level Three Personal Training Diplomas. And Derbyshire Constabulary won the absence management category. Here, a HR project explored the reasons for sickness absence which informed a cost saving of £139,000 by tackling underlying issues, supporting people more and getting them back to work sooner.
Resources for force self-assessment and continual improvement
So, why seek to re-invent the wheel when there is a ready accessible evidence base you can gap analysis yourself against?
Each force can log on for free and use a self -assessment tool, with peer review, to compare their current position with possible areas for development in a non-judgmental way. The peer review process is carried out by a wellbeing specialist so it helps with a tailored review of a force, informed by the latest research ad evidence on wellbeing.
The self-assessment process can be accessed from here:- https://oscarkilo.org.uk/wellbeing-framework/what-is-the-framework/self-assessment/
You can also see lots of inspiring national best practice that has already been implemented across the UK here:- https://oscarkilo.org.uk/oscar-kilo-award-winners-2019/
Free reports on wellbeing:-
With so much work ongoing to deliver welfare and well-being in the policing workplace the future is looking very positive. If you thought finding out what has been tried already was difficult or are short of ideas of what to try out in your workplace then take a look at Oscar Kilo – it takes the stress out of tackling stress!