Survey to examine impact on mental health of officers in CSAE investigations

Researchers have opened a survey to gain an insight into the mental health and wellbeing of police officers and staff working in child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSAE) teams.

Mar 22, 2022
By Paul Jacques
Picture: University of Portsmouth

The national survey, believed to be the first of its kind, aims to capture the thoughts and observations of officers and staff involved in these investigations – data which researchers say has “never been secured before”.

The survey is being conducted by the Policing Institute for the Eastern Region (PIER) at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and the University of Portsmouth, and is supported by Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection and abuse investigations.

Dr Theresa Redmond, a Senior Research Fellow within PIER, said: “We know that child sexual abuse and exploitation investigations are a major part of policing today, and whilst the impact on victims and witnesses is incomprehensible, the impact on those tasked with managing these investigations must also not be forgotten.

“This is the first national collection of such insight and will be key in enabling us to make informed recommendations on how we can protect those who protect the most vulnerable.”

The survey follows a small pilot project in Hampshire, ‘Understanding Moral Injury in Police Online Child Sex Crime Investigators’, led by Professor Peter Lee, professor of applied ethics and director of the University of Portsmouth’s Security and Risk Research Theme.

Figures from the National Crime Agency (NCA) estimate that there are between 550,00 and 850,000 UK-based individuals posing varying degrees of risk to children (NCA, 2021).

Together, the NCA and UK policing arrest more than 1,000 child sex offenders and are safeguarding around 1,100 children each month. Thousands of officers and staff in teams across the service are therefore dealing with extremely traumatic accounts of these types of crime, say researchers.

The research team aims to gain a detailed insight into the mental health and wellbeing of these police staff and officers and find out how they cope with the demands of the job. This will help identify when and how staff health and wellbeing can be improved by greater awareness, early intervention, and formal and informal support.

Dr Redmond said: “We work to improve policing through applied research, and this survey is a key example of this.”

Professor Lee said: “I am delighted to partner with PIER on this crucial research. They have enabled a small Hampshire-based pilot project to be turned into a national survey of police and staff who risk their mental health to investigate child sexual abuse and exploitation.”

The survey is open to any police officer or member of police staff who routinely or regularly works in any CSAE investigations. It can be found at https://portsmouthpsych.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_aXnKFILQOoVvF1s

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