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Adjusting to life 'on the beat' : a longitudinal examination of adaptation to the police profession


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Burke, Karena Jane 2009 , 'Adjusting to life 'on the beat' : a longitudinal examination of adaptation to the police profession', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Focus on the negative outcomes of operational trauma in policing has led to the
predominant conclusion that the profession is highly stressful. However, much of this
research fails to consider the role of the organisation in facilitating and maintaining
employee well-being. Furthermore, it is now widely argued that individual factors (e.g.,
personality) have a differential impact on responses to trauma. The major aim of this
project was to examine the interplay between individual and organisational factors in
determining positive adjustment outcomes for new police officers.
To date there is no study which has systematically examined the adjustment of
police officers during their first encounters with operational policing from both an
organisational, individual and trauma perspective. Accordingly, the project draws on a
wide range of literature, with emphasis on a multi-faceted approach drawn from within
organisational/industrial psychology, stress and trauma research, health psychology, and
individual differences. In particular, theoretical frameworks regarding organisational
stress, occupational health, individual differences, and trauma response are drawn upon
in an attempt to fully explicate the adjustment process in new police officers. This study utilised a multi-method longitudinal approach, and followed police
recruits from training and through their first 2 years of operational duties, a period of
around 30 months. All new recruits to Tasmania Police in 2004 and 2005 were
approached to participate. A 100% response rate (N= 161) was achieved for the first
phase of the project. An overall response rate of 75% was achieved for the quantitative
(survey-based) phases of the study, and 53% for the qualitative (semi-structured
interview) phases.
Changes in officer's stress, job satisfaction, and perceptions of organisational
climate were charted using a quantitative methodology, and the implications of prior traumatic experience/s, personality, and coping in response to occupational experiences
(both routine and potentially traumatising) were also explored. Further, qualitative
studies examined changes in officers' perceptions of their role within the organisation,
and combined results found satisfaction is determined, to a large extent, by the police
organisational culture.
Overall, results suggest that prior trauma may actually facilitate officer
resilience to later work-trauma, and that the police organisation plays a pivotal role in
determining the well-being of officers. The results also point out the negative
implications of the police socialisation process, and outlines some of the ways in which
high levels of camaraderie in this profession can lead to the development and
facilitation of maladaptive ways of coping with the job, whilst offering protection
against other mitigating factors such as isolation. The project provides important
insights into the dynamics of individual adjustment in the police profession during
officers' first three years of organisational involvement. The implications of these
findings for the current and future psychological health of these officers, in the context
of the challenges faced within a policing environment, are explored throughout the

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Burke, Karena Jane
Keywords: Police, Police, Police, Police, Post-traumatic stress disorder
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2009 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

No access or viewing until 18 May 2011. After that date, available for use in the Library and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2009. Includes bibliographical references. Volume 1. Section One. Framing the investigation. Ch. 1. Conceptualising police officer well-being -- Ch. 2. Determinants of adjustment in the workplace - individual characteristics -- Ch. 3. Determinants of adjustment in the police workplace - contextual and organisational influences -- Ch. 4. Methodological considerations in examining adjustment in new police recruits -- Section Two. Socialisation into policing: the transition from civilian to operational officer. Ch. 5. Characterising police officers: individual influences on officer adjustment -- Ch. 6. Individual and occupational influences on police officer well-being: first impressions of operational policing -- Ch. 7. Perceptions of operational policing: the journey so far. Volume 2. Section Three. The experienced officer. Ch. 8. Resilience markers in the experienced officer: appraisal of potentially traumatic events -- Ch. 9. What makes a happy cop? Longitudinal influences on police officer well-being -- Ch. 10. Reflections on operational policing -- Section Four. Conclusions, implications and recommendations. Ch. 11. Factors influencing adjustment in new police recruits

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