While there’s an increasing emphasis on evidence-based policing, much of that research remains inaccessible to officers on the street. In this episode, AMU’s Leischen Kranick talks to Susanne Knabe-Nicol about her efforts to make scientific research practical and useful for law enforcement officers around the world. Learn how she’s converting important research on investigative interviewing, offender profiling, crime analysis and more into videos and online courses to help officers better understand and apply this information. Also learn about her work to improve officer mental health and resiliency through training and educating agency leaders.
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Leischen Kranick: Welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Leischen Kranick. Today we’re going to talk about the science behind policing, some of the important research being done, and the challenges of conveying that vital information to officers themselves.
Today, my guest is Susanne Knabe-Nicol. She worked in UK policing for more than a decade in a civilian role as a regional intelligence analyst, major researcher, custody investigator, and other unsworn roles. During her career, she noticed that there was a lot of great research being done on policing, but this information wasn’t reaching officers on the street. It was largely only being read by academics.
So she sought to change that and started a website called PoliceScienceDr.com. Through her site, she offers a broad range of research-based videos and online courses for officers to help make this research more digestible and accessible to officers. Hi, Susanne. Welcome to the podcast.
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: Hello, Leischen. Thank you very much for having me on.
Leischen Kranick: I wanted to start our conversation by just talking about the evolution of evidence-based policing. I understand this is a concept to basically help officers and agencies make better decisions by using empirical research, scientific testing, and that it’s been around for a few decades now so it’s not exactly new. But even though it’s been around, there seems to remain a disconnect between the research findings and how that information is practically applied in policing. So, can you start by telling our audience a little bit about your experience with research as it pertains to law enforcement?
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: Yes. The disconnect that you speak of I think is a massive problem that we have in the law enforcement community.
For example, in medical practice, I think there’s a much more direct channel of communication between recent research findings that stems from the academics and researchers and companies, unfortunately pharmaceutical companies largely and what the results are, and then what is actually being done by frontline nurses and doctors. I think there’s a much more direct channel of information from these research findings that then translate relatively quickly into guidance for these frontline practitioners.
We don’t really have that in policing. Police officers usually have some initial training. It’s been whittled down to 10 weeks now in some forces here in the UK. Then they go out on the job. We know that people only retain 10% of classroom training anyway. Most of that training gets forgotten and then they basically learn on the job. They develop their style of policing on the job.
They very rarely have proper refresher training or specialist training on something. So, we don’t even have an infrastructure where police would regularly be informed on current best practices and new knowledge findings. That’s one problem.
The other problem is the way that all of this is communicated. Because there are some organizations, for example the various Societies of Evidence Based Policing. In the UK we also have the College of Policing that do make efforts to bring some research articles to practitioners. But again, that’s in the form of articles.
And research articles are not exactly pleasant to read. I mean, one barrier is that most people can’t access them because they’re behind a subscription paywall, which is another topic that can be debated. But even if they only read the abstract, it’s very difficult sometimes to whittle through all the research articles available to see which ones are actually going to be of practical use to the frontline officer.
So what I try to do, and you mentioned that I basically decided to fill a gap that I saw, is I extract snippets of these research articles that I believe will be of practical use to police and law enforcement, and I communicate them as a snippet of just a few sentences in a weekly email that is sent to my email subscribers and I also create videos based on research findings.
I create educational videos on specific topics. For example, what is crime analysis? What is investigative interviewing? How to avoid false confessions? What is geographic profiling? What is offender profiling? I think if you turn research into a video, it’s a lot more accessible than a dry academic article.
Leischen Kranick: I think those are some really great points that information and research may be out there, but frankly, it’s just not very user-friendly in many cases. And we all know officers have a lot going on. They don’t necessarily have the time to sit down and try to make their way through a dense research paper. So I think that’s a really great point that this information really, it needs to be accessible, like you said, digestible, and also just very, almost have that practical element built into it.
Is that something that you focus on as well? The research might find something about use of force in agencies or the way that officers use it, but there’s not always that what-to-do-about-it piece. How do you either avoid that? Or are you more on the just awareness aspect of this?
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: For my free weekly Police Science snippets, I’m really looking for something that’s practical. And I struggle almost every week because I get journal alerts emailed to me so I can go through all the article names. Most of the research is published for other researchers and for other academics, and it’s very important and they need to be doing it.
But in terms of filtering out what’s actually usable to the police officer, I mean, there are titles like “The Impact of Childhood Adverse Experiences on the Later Prevalence of Domestic Abuse in South Korean Families.” It’s great. I’m glad that somebody is doing it, but what is our police officer in the UK, in the US, wherever, what are they going to do with that information that they can’t?
So I need to then keep looking. I always feel that I’m scraping the barrel for something that’s really practical. So, I always look for something where it says that this way of doing something is better than this way. Something that’s really specific, to the point, t’s not theoretical and it’s not abstract, so something actionable that somebody can implement maybe the next day they go to work or they can think about, “Okay, next time I encountered this situation, I’m going to try that.” And it’s really not easy. I wonder what that says about the research landscape as well. That’s most of it, I think, is done for other researchers, not for the practitioners.
Leischen Kranick: Interesting. I would bet that you’re on point with that. One question that I wanted to dive into a little bit more was just some of the research that you’ve kind of come upon in recent years. Has there been a focus by researchers on specific topics? I know in the US, use of force is obviously a big one, but also profiling, interviewing. What stands out to you in terms of research topics that are just very important for officers right now?
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: There’s been a lot of work done in a number of fields. I mean, obviously I’ve got some that are my personal main fields of interest. I’m quite interested in investigative interviewing, things like geographic profiling, crime analysis, things that help investigations because my background is investigative psychology.
But I think what’s really current at the moment is how the police deal with the public; police accountability, police legitimacy, scrutiny by the media. So for example, we have something called stop and search. I think you may be calling it stop and frisk perhaps in the US.
There’s been very loud voices saying that it’s racial profiling, it’s perhaps not evenly conducted amongst white and black young men. But then there are silent research findings that say that, “Well, actually, if you’re comparing it to the right thing, it is proportionate.” Because we shouldn’t be comparing it to how many people of a certain ethnicity were stopped compared to people of another certain ethnicity in relation to the population. It needs to be, “Okay. How many people have been stopped that have been involved in this kind of crime?” So you need to look at the right numbers.
And I know that there are pieces of research out there, also with the shootings in America of certain skin colors that says that actually there is no racial bias in there. But people are not publishing that because currently everybody who says certain things can get vilified in the media very quickly.
So, I think it’s quite a shame that entire organizations are not willing to speak out with more accurate, more succinct data they’d have because of the media backlash they are worried about, when actually, I think the public should know about it.
Leischen Kranick: Well, that also makes me think about the media’s role in some of this. Have you experienced, as you’re diving deep into some of this research, I think the media tends to just want the headlines and they just grab essentially the executive summary of research and they don’t really capture the full picture. Is that what you find when it comes to research and law enforcement?
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this headline grabbing effect can be very damaging because it very much skews what’s the essence of the findings actually are. But I do also understand it. We are so flooded with information nowadays that we do need to find ways of grabbing people’s attention. And I need to do that myself in a way almost. I mentioned that I email out these free Police Science snippets to my email list every week, but then I also turn those free snippets into a visual image that I then post on social media.
And, unfortunately, it’s the ones that seem to be more controversial or could hit on the nerve with some people that get the most engagements. Now, when you’re dealing with social media, what you need is engagement. You need people to start commenting on your post so that it gets shown to more people. So, I’m finding myself in this trap where I know that if I post something controversial rather than something that’s purely informative, the one that’s controversial, personally, is going to be more beneficial to me in terms of getting more people to find out about me.
Leischen Kranick: I think that’s a dilemma we all sort of face, professionally and personally. You kind of want the attention and the engagement, but you also, especially in your work, you want to make sure that people have a greater understanding of what the research found on some of those nuances involved. I can completely understand that struggle.
And as we’re talking about some of these topics, can you talk a little bit about when you were working in police agencies in an unsworn role, you were doing a lot more research and intelligence work. Were there areas of research that you just couldn’t find the information you were looking for? What were some of those topics that you just think need to be built out a lot more from a research perspective?
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: I can’t say for sure now if that’s because I haven’t found it or I haven’t looked enough for it. But I think I’d be quite interested in bringing more emotional intelligence and development of the soft skills of policing into the forefront of what we do really because policing has evolved.
I mean, it started out in the London Docks as thief-takers. They were looking for tall men who could basically see above other people’s heads to stop companies from being burgled and robbed. And that’s how it started. It was a very physical, mechanical job.
Nowadays, it’s completely different. A police officer is performing 50 roles in one job, and it’s a lot about safeguarding, protecting people from horrible things they do to other people. It’s not so much about property anymore. It’s moving more into the online space. It’s very much social work, family work, domestic abuse and mental-health related.
And for a long time, I think we’ve been recruiting people who are attracted to this testosterone way of having the job done with blue lights, sirens, handcuffs, finding drugs, chasing after people, rolling around on the floor. When really what we need in policing and I’ve seen some research that says that a more diverse police force actually has fewer violent incidents. So if we have more people who are females, if we have more people who are from different backgrounds, that’s actually good for the police force and for the community.
In order to attract these kinds of people, we need to move away from this macho image and this testosterone recruitment drive. I think in some areas we’ve already done that, but not in all. The image of policing definitely needs to be updated towards the public so that the right members of the public can apply.
Leischen Kranick: I’m so glad that you brought up emotional intelligence and just that soft skill focus, because that’s what I’ve heard a lot on my end too about how important it is for officers to really be more well-rounded in many respects in terms of their awareness of mental health issues.
Not only of dealing with people who have mental health issues, but also their own mental health and how important that is to just being a healthy person who’s not jaded from the work that they’re doing, which is just incredibly difficult.
And I like how you talked about just the need to recruit people who have different backgrounds. We’ve also found that officers who have a bachelor’s degree and have an education are far less likely to be involved in use-of-force incidents and how all these different components can just help officers basically do their job better.
Actually, I want to stay on this topic a little bit just because I think it is so important. When you talk about the soft skills, can you elaborate a little bit? I’m also curious, you said there’s not a lot of research on this, but is there some research that you found that really supports how important it is for officers to have high emotional intelligence?
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: I don’t want to make too much of a statement about that because as I’ve said, I haven’t really looked for it much. I will do in the future because I’m speaking to someone about possibly creating a course on emotional intelligence, specifically for police.
Something I’d like to add to what you said about the degree, that if officers have a degree they’re less likely to get involved in violence. Now, I’m not sure if you’re aware that now in the UK, every police officer entering the force is going to gain a degree in policing during the first three years on the job. This is being done to basically align it to nursing, to accredit the skills that somebody gets in their training and the qualification they gain and the skills to professionalize policing in a bit, in a way.
That will be quite interesting because you said that people have degrees gets involved less in these kinds of incidents. Well, all our new recruits, if they don’t already have degrees, they are getting a degree whilst they’re actually training to be a police officer. So after three years, they all have that degree. It will be interesting to see if that has any impact on how policing is being done.
To get back to the soft skills that you were asking about, the thing is, that police officers deal with people in crisis, they deal with people in one of the worst points in their life usually. And if you see that over and over again, you do build up some kind of emotional resilience and a bit of a barrier because you need to protect yourself.
Now, the fact that officers are never taught how to protect their mental health is a completely different issue, and we can talk about that as well. But what happens automatically with time is that you become a little bit, maybe you’ve heard the term, compassion fatigue. And that is a problem in the sense that they become very cynical and negative and they think, “Oh God, another mental health call, another domestic.” But these are people’s lives that are being impacted severely. But I do understand why police officers build that shield around them because they have to. If you’re very affected by every single case you go to, you’ll be burnt out after just a few shifts on the job.
So the soft skills that I think every police officer should have is first of all switching to a preventative approach rather than just putting out fires. Maybe just turning off the gas and the flame. But also, in how they deal with people, how do you come across? Many police officers, they come across straightaway as people of authority. And there’s nothing really wrong with that, but does that encourage even victims to really disclose what’s going on? Does the uniform perhaps discourage the victims from disclosing?
The last force that I was working at, I was interested in starting a research project. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get that started before I left. But I was wondering if we could perhaps do a trial where we have non-uniform police officers in a non-marked police car respond in conjunction with a response car with uniformed officers to domestic abuse calls. So that they might get there a little bit later because they can’t be driving on blue lights and with sirens, but to see if victims might be more co-operative with non-uniformed officers. Because the uniform can perhaps be a bit of a barrier to disclosure. I think that will be, if anyone’s listening to this and would like to start this trial, please let me know how it goes because I think there could be really interesting findings in there.
I know that in the case in the UK, some forces are experimenting with offering people who call the police for service, the opportunity to speak to someone directly via video link almost there and then, or to have the option to wait for a police car and wait for physical attendance.
And sometimes people do find it easier to communicate with an officer through the phone or through a video phone. And it might perhaps be conducive to more disclosure in domestic abuse cases because some people are put off from reporting domestic abuse because they worry about what the neighbors will think if the police turn up.
Now, if he can talk to the police via video link, almost immediately that might be really beneficial to the victim and to encourage disclosure and even encourage people just to call if they know that it’s an option.
So there’s some interesting research being done on how the police should be interacting with the public. But I think breaking down barriers, like for example this very authoritative stance especially when you’re dealing with victims, you do need the authority when you need to deal with an immediate threat.
But when you’re dealing with victims, with witnesses, do you really want to be standing there with your arms crossed and being the big guy in the vest? I mean, I wore a uniform when I was a police community support officer, and I know that crossing your arms is just the most comfortable thing to do with your arms. I was aware of that dilemma that I had back then, that I know it’s negative body language, but I just don’t know what else to do with my arms, I can’t put them in my pockets, it looks unprofessional.
But to really get officers maybe trained in speaking into victims in certain ways, to speaking not only to victims, but runaways, anyone in crisis in certain ways. And how can you level with them? How can you create an immediate connection with them? How can you let them know that you’re listening, that you’re really there to help? I don’t think we give them enough of those skills. And even if we did have training courses for them available for that, often they can’t be sent on to them because they are short-staffed and they need everyone on the job. There’s a lot of work to be done in short.
Leischen Kranick: I’m very glad to hear about some of the innovative ways that agencies around you are finding ways to communicate with the public. I haven’t heard of any agencies here using video link. I think some agencies even have a hard time with 911 systems and texting. I don’t think that’s even available across the US.
So I think having that option like you mentioned earlier about the video link and having ways to communicate with officers without them being there make sense in so many ways. It may not be necessary to have a physical presence somewhere, but still need to inform officers of a situation. So, that’s very interesting. I like that a lot.
And I also want to commend the UK for taking that step to educate their officers to really professionalize their profession as you mentioned, because I’m concerned here that we’ve gone that way, a lot of agencies require a bachelor’s, but now just the state of policing where they’re having so many issues recruiting, I feel like that’s going to be the first thing that drops off, is the education requirement. And that’s just so important as you noted.
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: There was a lot of misunderstanding when this was first being announced, this new policy. People were thinking, “Oh, you need to get a degree. You need to have a degree in order to get into policing.” And I think that would be wrong because I think a lot of people can be fantastic police officers without having to have studied anything particular at university.
But I do think it’s good that you get a degree when you’re learning policing because just out of sheer recognition of everything that you learn that you do and you should come out with a qualification. So I think the fact that if you don’t have a degree, that’s fine, you’ll get a degree whilst you’re doing it. I think that’s the right approach rather than saying, “Well, no, you need to have a degree” because I don’t think that’s necessarily necessary.
Leischen Kranick: Also, there’s the incentive of when you join the force I’m assuming they pay for all of the degree or at least part of it, so that’s sort of an added bonus that you earn a degree while you’re working. And it just prioritizes education in general within the agency. Like your commanding officer knows that you’re in school. I just think overall that’s just an amazing policy so, it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. And hopefully the US will take a page out of that playbook.
One thing I wanted to also just kind of follow up with you about when we were talking about training, and I really like what you said about all the interviewing techniques and the physical presence of officers. I know there’s a lot of effort being made within agencies to emphasize that kind of training, like victim interviewing. It’s really an art form, I think, to how you interview victims and get the right information without kind of intimidating them. I think that’s training that will always be needed. In terms of the interview techniques, is that something that you’ve read a lot about or seen a lot of research?
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: Yes. Investigative interviews are one of my fields of interest and I did one study on that for my PhD. I’m actually organizing the next Rapid-Fire Conference on investigative interviewing. I don’t know when this is going to be aired, but people will be able to watch the conference back when they go to policesciencedr.com/rfc2. RFC is for Rapid-Fire Conference.
Now, the Rapid-Fire concept is basically that rather than having to sit through a lengthy one-hour talk by some person who is really dry in their delivery, you actually get a 10-minute quick training session on the specific subject. And I will also then summarize and extract the key points from the session afterwards. This conference that I’m doing is the second one. The first one was on behavioral science more generally. This one is specifically investigative interviewing.
I’ve got four people together who are really world-class experts in their field. One is on witness interviewing, the other one is on suspect interviewing, then there’s one on investigating or interviewing victims and suspects for sexual offenses. It’s going to be really interesting.
And there’s a lot of very good, and in my opinion, very interesting research in that field. I’m really excited about that conference. If you can’t attend it live, it’s on the 19th of July. I mean, this might be going on afterwards, but just go to rfc2. It’s the second Rapid-Fire Conference. This is going to be an event purely based around that specific topic. And I’m soon hopefully launching some courses on that with at least two of the speakers of this conference.
In terms of educating and training police worldwide by these experts and on these topics, then that’s something that’s going to be available on the Police Science Dr. Academy soon.
Leischen Kranick: Excellent. I think interview techniques is a skill that all officers, no matter how long they’ve been in the force, can really always improve. It’s just something that truly takes so much practice and also the training behind it. So I’m very excited and we’ll link to that in the transcript of this episode.
One thing I want to spend some time on because it’s an area of interest among our listeners and something that I’ve written a lot about in the last five years is just the mental health issue among officers.
I don’t know exactly how it is in the UK, if you’re seeing that sort of a morale issue among officers like we are here in the US. But can you talk a little bit about some of the research and some of your work when it comes to mental health for officers themselves?
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: I recently did a series of events on that actually. I did the Mental Health in Policing webinar, which again is on the website, just /mh for mental health. I interviewed 12 people from all over the world on this topic. They were either practitioners who had personal experience of mental health going wrong in policing, or they were experts who have been doing research in the field.
And I think really in the UK and the US, the picture is very similar in that mental health is a big issue that is often not being addressed because it goes against the macho culture to say that, “Something has affected me and I just can’t shake it” or “I’m having flashbacks” or “I’m feeling anxiety.” This is just not something that we have created a safe enough environment for officers to talk about unfortunately.
So they’re all having the same problems, that they’re having issues that they feel they can’t discuss with their family because it’s too extreme what they’ve seen. They can’t discuss it much with their colleagues because they fear they would lose face. They don’t want to take up internal provisions for them like Employee Assistance Programs and internal psychologists because they don’t really trust totally that it’s going to stay confidential, that is not going to jeopardize their standing or their career.
And also they don’t want to go anywhere externally to see a counselor because they know that these counselors are not going to be familiar with the job of policing and they’re not really going to understand the context within which everything happens. So there’s a bit of a dilemma here.
And actually, I created a course with a police stress expert, Ginny McKenna, who was a frontline cop for a long time over 20 years. And not only that, but she also knows what it’s like to have mental health issues. She had anxiety, depression, PTSD, and she was suicidal as a cop. She then turned into a life coach and she started specializing in stress resilience in policing and helping police out of stress and law enforcement and first responders.
So, that course really removing all of the barriers that I just mentioned. It’s not internal. It’s going to be completely confidential. It is external, but by someone who really understands the job of policing. That’s all the time you spent working through this online coaching program is actually going to be spent working on you, rather than somebody trying to understand the job of policing.
We did the mental health webinar. Ginny McKenna, she was my cohost. We’ve got this course together, it’s called Emergency Stress Pit Stop. We also did a series of free workshops for policing. Again, they can be found on the website, just /srw for Stress Resilience Workshops. So there were three free workshops.
Ginny taught a skill or a tool that anyone can use when they need it at each of these workshops. They were very well received. We had a fantastic audience that came back for all the three workshops from a number of different countries. It was really great to see.
The interests and the hunger for mental health in policing is just immense. And when you speak to people, they’ll tell you that not enough is being done, but when you speak to organizations, they will list all the things they’re already doing. So there’s a big disconnect there. I’ve found that quite interesting.
Leischen Kranick: I think that’s the biggest barrier I’ve seen in my work addressing mental health in law enforcement, is that barrier between agencies and kind of command staff and line officers or basically everyone else. That they have the sense that they’re not allowed or they shouldn’t talk about some of the problems that they’re having, whether it’s stress or anxiety or suicidal ideation or anything along those lines. Because if they admit to it, their superiors could take away their badge and gun. Basically it jeopardizes their jobs, so they’re scared to talk about it.
In a lot of cases I’ve heard, they’re ashamed to talk about it. They feel like they knew “what they were signing up for” when they took this job. But I’m sure you feel the same way that what officers go through, no individual should have to see. Some of the things that they see, some of the experiences they have, it’s just so much. It’s really damaging. It’s really traumatic.
And I’m so glad to hear that there are programs like what you’re doing to just address these issues and help officers deal with these issues and build up their resiliency, because they’re not going to be good officers if they’re not whole people. So, great work there.
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: That’s a very interesting dilemma that you mentioned there, that officers on the one hand perhaps may not be in a position where they should be out and exposed to more trauma and where they should be, in America, carrying a gun. In a way, that might be a bad idea and it might be irresponsible to let them carry a gun if they’re really struggling with how they’re feeling and they fear that they may not react the way they would want to react at all times. But it’s also very irresponsible to put officers off from seeking help.
And there’s a fine line. Which one is more irresponsible? Is it more irresponsible to let people walk around like ticking time bombs when nobody knows how they might feel and how they might respond and react to something at any point in time? But also, how can you discourage them from stepping forward and saying they seek help when they feel penalized, when you are then saying, “Okay, well, you can’t carry a gun for now”? That’s a very, very, very difficult subject really. On the one hand we’re saying, “We don’t want to stigmatize anyone who’s got mental health issues.” On the other hand we’re saying, “Well, we don’t trust you to carry a gun then.” So it’s very, very dangerous.
A few years ago we had a case of, I think it was a German Lufthansa pilot, a commercial passenger airline pilot, who had depression, like many people do. But he decided on one particular flight to crash the airplane with all the passengers into a mountain because he was wanting to commit suicide. Now, does that mean we should screen all pilots for any sign of mental health and then maybe lose many of them just because they had something in their past? Where is the line of responsibility and irresponsibility in this? It’s a very difficult decision to make. And to be honest, I’m glad I don’t have to make it.
Leischen Kranick: Right. I’m wondering too, and this is kind of a big picture question and I’m not asking you to solve all the problems, but in your work, have you seen a solution that you think really aids in addressing mental health? Like, is it adding more training in the academy, throughout an officer’s career, having peer-to-peer training? Or is there anything that you just think has been effective in addressing mental health in law enforcement?
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: Yes. Actually, if you go to the Mental Health webinar webpage, that’s policesciencedr.com/mh for mental health, I put together a poster that lists all the things that the speakers that I had interviewed for the webinar were already doing or said should be done. It’s all of the things that you just said and more.
We need better internal provisions. We need to accept that police officers’ mental health is as important as their physical health and they need to have equipment. But it’s not going to be physical equipment like a bulletproof vest or a stab-proof vest, it’s going to be training on how they can deal with traumatic incidents, how to process them, and how to reintegrate back into their normal home life at the end of a shift. That should really be part of the training from the very beginning.
How to handle night shifts even. We are not supposed to be awake during the night hours, but we expect our officers to be functioning fully, and they don’t. They have more accidents. They have more negative incidents during night shifts than during daytime because we are just not geared up to be functioning at those times of the day. But they don’t get any training or guidance on how to cope with night shifts, how to prepare their body, and how to wean themselves off the night shifts after a set.
We don’t really give them enough tools on how to protect their mental health, how to, like I said, process things, how to prevent PTSD. We need to bring that training into it from the very beginning, but throughout their career. So we should have six-monthly refreshers. We should have regular mental health checkups.
And actually, Dr. Marla Friedman from Illinois, she said it very well that she’s got a program called Chiefs Lead the Way. The chief of police or whoever the head of the department or agency is, should have a regular mental health checkup and should then go back to the department and say, “I’ve done it. It was fine. I want you all to do it.”
If the chief does it, that gives everyone permission to do it. It takes the risk away that there’s going to be something that can be bullied about or ridiculed or seen in any negative light if the chief is doing it and the chief is telling everyone to do it. We need to start from the top. We need to start with our student officers and we need to have it throughout. We also need to have internal provisions in the sense of peer support programs.
There was somebody speaking at the mental health webinar from Illinois again, where they were talking about the peer support program. We’ve got something like that here on a national level as well. So that people working within policing, volunteers can be trained up to support others as a first point of contact to just have a chat, to speak, to be a confidential sounding board and just listen and signpost if they can. So we need to have internal structures.
We also need to have internal police psychologists who can help people process and work through things. And not just work-related. Police officers have horrible personal relationships. The divorce rate is very high. So they need to be able to speak about home life as well.
And we need to have external provisions. We need to be able to give our police officers free access and unlimited, I believe, not just you can have up to six session within any 12-month period, because then you think, “Oh, I need to keep them just in case I really need them.” You should have unlimited access to external providers if you don’t want to use the internal ones; psychologists, counselors, whatever it may be, who are familiar with policing.
And that’s a big thing, because sometimes you would just be wasting a lot of time trying to explain to your counselor why this happened, why that happened, and just explain the job to them when you’re not there to explain the job, you’re there to talk about how you are coping or how you’re not coping. That’s about it with what I have on the poster. But the poster’s free for anyone to download so please go to policesciencedr.com/mh, mental health. Download the poster and print it off, put it in your office. If you implement any of the things on there, then please let me know and tell me how they’re doing.
Leischen Kranick: Excellent. Well, it sounds like those are so many good components. There’s a lot. It’s not a simple answer. I think that everything you just said from having counselors who specialize in law enforcement issues is just so critical. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve heard, that officers try counseling, they end up going to someone who doesn’t know anything about what it’s like to work in a public safety field. And they kind of get discouraged and officers won’t go back. They try it once. And that’s really a shame. Hopefully that’s happening less and less, that they realized they need to find a better counselor that fits their needs.
I also really like when you talked about how they should have unlimited access to external providers, so they don’t feel like, like you said, they can only go a certain time. They can go as much as they want. All really great suggestions. I really hope that law enforcement leaders continue to take this very seriously, that it’s top of mind.
I know there’s a lot of conflicting priorities for law enforcement officers and leaders these days. But mental health, it just seems like that’s one that can’t come off that top list there, because if you don’t have officers who are in good shape, physically and mentally, they’re not going to be able to do a good job. So, I really commend you for your work to focus on mental health in law enforcement. I think that’s just increasingly important.
And as we come to kind of the end of our podcast here, were there any other topics that you wanted to cover? Any other closing thoughts?
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: I would like to invite anyone who’s interested in any of these topics to have a look at the website, see if you find anything that could be of use to you. You can click on the “Watch” link. You will have all the videos that I’ve published on there. You can listen to all the videos as a podcast as well if that’s your preference.
And the number of online events that I have, if you go on the home page and just scroll down the news items, you will see what events I had on. You can see all of the replays still there. There’s a link to when you click on Learn, that’s going to the Police Science Dr. Academy. And with time, that will have more and more courses, some of the ones that I already spoke about, hopefully about investigative interviewing, child interviewing, emotional intelligence, and policing. It’s going to grow more and more.
If you want the Police Science snippets emailed to you, you can join for free, the Police Science Dr. email list. Just put in your details in the registration form on the website, and I’d be happy to have you in the network. And ask me any questions you want. I’m always happy to connect with individuals, with organizations and on the social media platforms. I hope to hear from interested parties that can make use of the content I put out there.
Leischen Kranick: Well, excellent. Well, thank you so much for all those great resources. Thank you for a wonderful conversation.
Susanne Knabe-Nicol: Thank you very much.
Leischen Kranick: I just want to also thank our listeners for joining us today. Be well and stay safe.