Purpose – Stress research in the UK policing has largely neglected to account for variance in the type of psychosocial hazard officers are exposed to across policing roles, highlighting the need for role-specific research that is capable of informing similarly specific stress reduction interventions. This study aimed to develop and assess exposure to a taxonomy of psychosocial hazards specific to the UK police custody work, consider the burnout profile of custody officers, explore relations between psychosocial hazard exposure and burnout, and compare the exposures of burned out and non-burned out custody officers.
Design/methodology/approach – Preliminary focus groups identified a series of psychosocial hazards specific to the custody officer role. A questionnaire administered to custody officers within a UK territorial police force assessed exposure to these psychosocial hazards and burnout.
Findings – Twenty-six custody-specific psychosocial hazards were identified, across nine themes. The proportion of custody officers who reported a high degree of burnout was above that found in normative data. Hierarchical regression analyses showed that exposures were positively related to emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation. Unrelated t-tests showed that respondents who reported high burnout also reported significantly higher exposures across all nine psychosocial hazard themes than those with sub-threshold burnout scores.
Originality/value – This is the first study to investigate the stress-related working conditions of the UK custody officers. It provides a foundation for future large-scale longitudinal studies concerned with validating the current findings and improving the health of officers engaged in this unique policing role.
Houdmont, J. (2013). UK police custody officers’ psychosocial hazard exposures and burnout. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 36(3), doi:10.1108/PIJPSM-11-2012-0109