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Applying Resilience Promotion Training Among Special Forces Police Officers

Judith P¹. Andersen, Konstantinos Papazoglou¹, Mari Koskelainen², Markku Nyman², Harri Gustafsberg², Bengt B. Arnetz³

¹University of Toronto Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, ²Police University College, Tampere, Finland, ³Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA

Sage and Open Access, April-June, 2015 1-8

For a PDF version of the complete paper, click here.

Abstract

Police Special Forces (a.k.a. special weapons and tactics [SWAT]) officers are tasked with responding to the most critical situations, including incidents that require specialized skills and equipment beyond typical policing activities. In this study, we tested the feasibility of applying Arnetz and colleagues’ resilience promotion training that was developed for patrol officers to SWAT team officers (n = 18). The resilience promotion training program included psychoeducation focused on police stress and resilience, and the practice of resilience promotion techniques (controlled breathing and imagery) while listening to audio-recorded critical incident scenarios. The aims of this study were to (a) examine if a resilience training program was relevant and accepted by SWAT team officers and (b) assess participants’ physiological stress responses (heart rate, respiration) during the resilience training sessions to note if there were improvements in stress responding over time. Our findings revealed that participants were able to significantly reduce their average heart rate and improve their ability to engage in controlled respiration (i.e., breathing) during simulated critical incidents over the course of the 5-day training. Improvements in stress responding were observed even when the critical incident scenarios became more graphic. Results suggest that an intervention to reduce stress responses of SWAT officers to critical incident scenarios works in a simulated training setting. Translation of these findings to real-world occupational hazards is a recommended next step.