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Police emergency: career survivability navigating trauma, the impacts of COVID-19 and mental illness for police

Amber Cheri McKinley (Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security, Charles Sturt University – Canberra Campus, Barton, Australia)
Samantha Jones (Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security, Charles Sturt University – Canberra Campus, Barton, Australia)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 29 December 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to view police mental and physical health and overall well-being through a victimological lens so as to attempt to prevent problems from starting or protecting them by informing them of what may occur within their career.

Design/methodology/approach

Knowledge production within the field of police health and career implications is exponentially increasing as officers all over the world try and sometimes fail to navigate the difficulties of their complex career choice. Many of the disciplines that deal with this research are acting as silos, so there is not a lot of crossover in Australian literature. This study creates a contemporary collective of literary evidence in relation to police well-being as well as the impact of COVID on them. Creating this collective is why the literature review as a research method is critical. Traditional literature reviews can lack clear process. By using a literature review as a specific methodology, the outcome is a meticulous record of all relevant materials.

Findings

The results of this literature review identified, without bias or interpretation, many officers became disillusioned, mentally unwell and took time away from work for two main reasons: (1) for many police officers, the substantial distress from cumulative exposure to bureaucratic administration and management styles, erratic work hours and long hours of repetitive work and (2) the dangers of day-to-day policing with the presence at fatal accidents, suicides, receiving threats to life, being assaulted and gaining poor eating and drinking habits creating issues for sleep and physical health.

Research limitations/implications

For the purposes of creating a contemporary paper, the authors restricted the sample of literature to 22 years (accessing from 2,000 onward). By only selecting journals from Google Scholar, relating to specific years and drawing on search terms to limit our search, it may be perceived to have skewed the sample and the outcomes. Further work will be completed in the future to correct this.

Practical implications

Police organisations may consider altering their bureaucratic procedures and make an effort to allow officers to better self-manage minor issues. From a victimological perspective, given that police officers are more than likely to be affected by cumulative experience of traumatic events over their career, they should be taught how to lower their individual levels of stress, to practice self-care and to be able to trust that the care they seek will be readily available without judgement.

Social implications

Knowing the triggers related to police breakdown, both physically and mentally, may help intervene in the early years to prevent The extremes of policing range from being faced with overwhelming paperwork and administration to acute trauma events and can leave the officer dealing with cumulative stress in all its guises. Allowing a judgment free public debate into this issue will assist police (and other emergency service works) in the future.

Originality/value

Viewing police officers as victims of their career choice is not common and reviewing the factors that impact them on a daily basis and throughout their career is critical for both prevention and understanding. This paper has value to numerous disciplines.

Keywords

Citation

McKinley, A.C. and Jones, S. (2022), "Police emergency: career survivability navigating trauma, the impacts of COVID-19 and mental illness for police", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCRPP-10-2022-0049

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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