POLICE officers have had to overcome new obstacles and deal with challenges of a kind not witnessed before, as a result of the COVID pandemic.
Now, a research project at the University of Huddersfield will provide a snapshot of policing amidst a global pandemic and has been awarded funding from the National Police Wellbeing Service (NPWS) to carry out the research.
The University’s Director of the Applied Criminology and Policing Centre, Professor Jason Roach, is to lead a team of researchers that will work with the NPWS exploring to what extent the health and wellbeing of the nation’s police officers have been affected.
The idea behind the project originated after Professor Roach recognised how research into the wellbeing of NHS staff working during the pandemic was well documented, but the same couldn’t be said for the nation’s police officers and their psychological, emotional and physical ‘wellbeing’.
Working alongside him will be Dr Michelle Rogerson, Dr Melanie Flynn, Dr Ashley Cartwright plus two PhD researchers Liam Curran and Rebecca McCarthy. Together they will create a survey that will include general questions such as how the police officers felt doing their job during the various phases of the COVID-19 Lockdown.
“For example,” said Professor Roach, “during the initial phases when no-one could be outside, the rules of social distancing were clear and easier for police to enforce, ‘Stay at home, Save Lives. Protect the NHS’, compared to when the relaxing of the rules happened. We’ll be asking how they dealt with enforcement in the potential vagueness of it all."
The survey will be disseminated by the NPWS to potentially thousands of police staff across England and Wales.
“The police force as a whole has come on leaps and bounds over the last five years when dealing with staff mental health and wellbeing issues,” said Professor Roach. “However, some forces are further down ‘the wellbeing road’ than others, so we are likely to get different responses from staff from different forces and working in different roles,” he added.
The project’s second phase will entail conducting numerous interviews with UK police staff, to identify personal accounts of working in policing during the pandemic and to acquire more detailed information relating to findings from the survey.
Professor Roach explains, “while the survey will identify ‘the what’, we will need to talk with police staff to understand ‘the why’.”
As well as identifying negative effects impacting on UK police staff wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the research team will also be searching for more positive factors relating to how individuals coped with the negative impact on their wellbeing from working during the pandemic. For example, which coping strategies they used, was it exercise and talking with colleagues, or if there was any specific support provided by their police forces.
When the research project is complete, the findings are to be published in an academic paper and presented to the UK College of Policing, to inform the maintaining of police wellbeing in the case of any further COVID or future pandemics.