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UWS to help find stress solutions for cops

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 Australian Catholic University (ACU) and University of Western Sydney (UWS) survey serving police officers and conduct further study to develop, for the first time, information-based scientific analysis of the NSW Police Force.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, Police and Emergency Services Minister, Stuart Ayres, Special Projects Assistant Commissioner Peter Gallagher and Human Resources Commander, Assistant Commissioner Carlene York, were joined by Dr Michael Kennedy from UWS and Professor Rhonda Craven from ACU, to announce the project in Sydney on Wednesday, July 15.

Funded by the prestigious Australian Research Council Linkage Project worth $500,000, plus an equivalent ‘in kind’ level of financial support from the universities, the project will investigate police commands in NSW to determine how to maintain an officer’s well-being 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 aim of the project is to 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.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Stuart Ayres said police deal with many traumatic events through the course of their work, which can have an impact on an officer’s psychological well-being.

“Our police personnel are there for the community to help us in our time of need. They look out for us when no one else can,” Mr Ayres said.

“This project is a continuation of the NSW Police Force’s commitment to improving the welfare of officers. We recognise that after helping members of the community, officers sometimes need help themselves.

“By working hand-in-hand with practice-driven researchers, who understand the conditions within the Force, police will be able to develop the best solutions for its organisation,” Mr Ayres stated.

Commissioner Scipione said stress awareness and management is crucial within the NSW Police Force.

“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.

“By collaborating with academic researchers from ACU and UWS, we hope to develop practical applications and policies to build on current initiatives of the Workforce Safety Command.

“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,” the Commissioner said.

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.

PROJECT FACT SHEET:

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

* Survey NSW police officers to gather crucial information about their work patterns, job satisfaction and health status;

* Conduct interviews and focus groups with officers, of varying service and rank, from selected commands across the state, to get 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; and

* Interview Managers and Commanders about the characteristics of their command, including demographics, management practices and organisational culture.

Researchers will conduct in-depth interviews with a number of officers and facilitate focus groups to better understand police experiences on the job.

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.

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