Time for reflection would allow police to better understand role

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Police officers should be given 20 minutes a week to think about decisions they have made on duty in order to improve their relationships with the public and fellow officers, a charity said yesterday.

The Royal Society for Arts (RSA) claimed allowing officers time to reflect on their performances would boost their work.

Launching the society’s Reflexive Coppers study, author Dr Jonathan Rowson said: “The quality of police interactions with each other, with the public, criminals and victims of crime all depend upon their capacity to better understand their own minds and the minds of the people they deal with.

“The police service might benefit from tools for self-examination beyond standard professional training, including the development of a shared language to talk about how and when self-awareness connects to recurring challenges at work.”

Dr Rowson’s report, part of the RSA’s “social brain programme”, found encouraging a “self-reflective culture” would improve communication and efficiency and potentially boost specific investigations.

It said too many officers were quickly forced to swap roles, giving the example of constables tackling rioters, breaking bad news to grieving families and supporting rape victims, possibly on the same shift. The report said: “Police are rarely given the chance to reflect on the kind of tensions and dilemmas that stem from this dual aspect of their role, and the operational and personal challenges that relate to the psychological underpinnings of their behaviour.”

But the study, which comes as forces shed up to 16,000 officers, admitted: “Given limitations on staff, time and budgets, any changes to working practices would have to be relatively subtle if they are to be realistically implemented.”

It called for “a series of small changes such as encouraging officers to take a short time (about 20 minutes) every week to reflect on their decisions, habits and attention, and perhaps begin promoting the value of this to senior officers so that this would not have to be done on their own time”.

It also recommended more support from senior officers for changing police culture - including creating a package in officer training to help them take “more control over their thinking and behaviour”.