Copley, Selina (2019) An investigation of the value of reflective practice for the professional development of police officers. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This qualitative case study research explored the value of guided reflection for the professional development of police officers. Reflection is widely regarded as a central element of professional practice within many of the welfare professions (Wilson, 2013; Jacobs, 2016). Evidence of reflective practice has been a mandatory requirement of the Nursing Midwifery Council since 2016 (NMC, 2018). The nursing literature identifies the value of reflective practice for professional development and high-quality responsible practice (Welp, Johnson, Nguyen & Perry, 2018). There is further evidence of the benefits of clinical supervision for the promotion of reflective practice (Esterhuizen & Freshwater, 2008). Recent research identifies the role of clinical supervision for improved self-awareness and reducing work-based stress and burnout (White, 2016; Koivu, Saarinen & Hyrkas, 2012).

There has been a more recent movement toward the professionalization of the police service. The most significant manifestations of this have been the introduction of the College of Policing (CoP) as a professional body, and the requirement for degree level entry from 2020. Whilst the CoP (2015) advocate the use of reflective practice, there are few studies which examine its value for professional practice within a policing context.

In this qualitative research ‘reflective timeout’ as an equivalent process to clinical supervision was undertaken by five serving police officers over a six-month period. The aims of the research were to consider the feasibility of facilitating reflective practice through guided reflection and explore its value for professional development. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken by the participants and three of their line managers following the period of supervision.

Three key themes were identified from the data. Firstly, participants demonstrated changes to their personal and professional identities associated with the development of reflective practices, this included the development of self-awareness and emotional intelligence as sub-themes. The second theme identified the value of reflective practice. Three sub-themes were identified which included (1) associated changes to professional identity in which participants came to adopt a reflective approach to professional practice and recognize its value for professional development (2) a recognition of the overall value of reflective practice for service-wide professional development and effective practice (3) structures which already exist within policing for the facilitation of reflection. The final theme identified the value of reflective practice and the reflective timeout sessions for the emotional well-being of policing staff in a highly demanding and often traumatic role.

This research adds to the body of policing and reflective practice knowledge. Reflective timeout as an equivalent process to clinical supervision was a new idea which developed throughout the undertaking of this research and its implementation was unique. It recognized transitions in personal and professional identity associated ongoing reflective practice and its value for service delivery. This research may contribute to policy guidelines and practice by advocating a more widespread and formal adoption of reflective practice as the police service makes the transition to a culture of professionalism. There is potential for wider scale studies which would explore this, and its overall benefits for professional police practice, further.

FINAL THESIS - COPLEY.pdf - Accepted Version
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