School of Health in Social Science

Moving towards Trauma-Informed policing

An exploration of police officer’s attitudes and perceptions towards Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Funded by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, this project examined police officers’ attitudes towards and perceptions of Adverse Childhood Experiences in police work.

People who are involved with the police or the criminal justice system have often had a high number of adverse childhood events (ACEs). It is being increasingly recognised that systems and institutions need to be aware of the relationship between ACEs and adult outcomes and many systems are adopting trauma-informed responses.  In this project, we

  1. examined the impact of a brief intervention on police officers’ attitudes towards trauma-informed policing work, and
  2. explored whether characteristics of police officers, such as age, sex or experience were related to attitudes towards trauma informed care and
  3. explored barriers to adopting trauma informed approaches.

The results showed that an awareness raising event based on a documentary and panel discussion did not lead to more positive attitudes to trauma-informed care in a police force that attended, when compared with a police force that did not. There were more positive attitudes towards trauma informed care for victims of crime, than for those who committed crimes. The results from focus groups showed that police officers needed more information on what a trauma informed approach means and how it could be used within their role. There were some concerns that a trauma informed approach could hinder them in doing their job. Police officers noted that they felt they did not have enough support to deal with trauma in their own roles.  

Project team 
Karri Gillespie-Smith Zara Brodie
Kimberly Collins Kirsty Deacon
Karen Goodall  

See the full project findings report