Jim Foley


Jim Foley

PhD Student

School: Psychology, Politics and Sociology

Campus: Canterbury


Biographical note

Jim graduated from CCCU in 2018 with a First Class BSc (Hons) in Policing and transferred from a MSc (Research) to the PhD in Professional Practice in March 2019. He is a Detective Superintendent in the Metropolitan Police, in charge of safeguarding for one of the 12 areas of London. Jim is also the ‘Lead Responsible Officer’ (LRO) for ‘harmful practices’ in London.

Project title

‘What is the impact of repeatedly working with traumatised victims of rape and child abuse on police officers in London?’

Research outline

Secondary trauma has been widely studied over the last 30 years and relates to exposure to trauma through a first-hand account or narrative of a traumatic event by another. This subsequent cognitive or emotional representation of that event may result in a set of symptoms and reactions that parallel PTSD (e.g., re-experiencing, avoidance and hyperarousal) in individuals (Figley, 1995; Cieslak, et al, 2014).

The impact of secondary trauma caused by repeated exposure to traumatised victims has been widely studied within a number of ‘caring’ professions such as therapists (Sodeke-Gregson, Holttum & Billings, 2013); Emergency nurses (Duffy, Avalos & Dowling, 2015) and Paramedics (Regehr, Goldberg & Hughes, 2003). As part of these studies a number of key concepts related to secondary trauma have been introduced such as Vicarious Trauma (McCann and Pearlman, 1990); Compassion Fatigue (Joinson, 1992); Secondary Traumatic Stress (Figley, 1995) and Burnout (Freudenberger, 1974). Whilst these concepts have been widely studied in a number of organisations, the impact of secondary trauma through daily engagement with traumatised victims has not been studied within policing, and the impact of this type of work on the mental health of these ‘secondary investigators’ (those who investigate these crimes) has not as yet been explored.

Whilst all policing roles are clearly demanding, it has been recognised that some of the most stressful and challenging cases for an officer to investigate are those involving violence, child abuse and serious sexual abuse (Astin, 1997; Brown et al., 1999; Skogstad et al., 2013).  Research into secondary trauma and mental health in policing, particularly for those that investigate rape and child abuse is an important piece of work to undertake at a time when there is an increasing demand in the reporting and investigation of these offences (MPS, 2018; NSPCC, 2018), whilst police numbers are declining (Home Office, 2017). This area which is significantly under researched and will help to inform understanding of the impact of working with traumatised victims within the MPS, and perhaps nationally.


Foley, J. & Massey, K. (2018) Police officers and posttraumatic stress disorder: discussing the deficit in research, identification and prevention in England and Wales, The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles, 1–12 DOI: 10.1177/0032258X18761284

Abstract - This article will review available literature regarding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within policing in England and Wales, with a particular focus on its early identification and prevention. An overview of PTSD will be given as well as an exploration of why police officers are potentially more susceptible to this mental health condition compared to other members of society. Key factors in the early identification and prevention of PTSD will be outlined, with a focus on crisis intervention techniques which have been subject to considerable academic study. There is limited research available from England and Wales that looks specifically at PTSD in policing; this research deficit will be highlighted and key areas of research which need to be explored further will be given so that this problem can be both identified and prevented in officers.

Foley, J. and Massey, K. (2019). The ‘cost’ of caring in policing: from burnout to PTSD in police officers in England and Wales." submitted to The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principle - in press.

Abstract - This article will endeavour to evaluate the available research on the development of secondary trauma and ‘cumulative’ Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in policing. It will focus on secondary trauma caused by working with traumatised victims and examine what is the true ‘cost of caring’ for police officers in England and Wales. It will briefly explore common work related ‘stressors’ in policing and review the concepts commonly associated with secondary trauma such as ‘burnout’, ‘vicarious trauma’, ‘compassion fatigue’, ‘secondary traumatic stress’ and their impact. This article will look in more detail at the available research relating to PTSD in police officers.

Conference Presentations

CCPR Round Table: Domestic Abuse - Wednesday 21 February 2018

CCPR annual conference 'Taming the wicked and the role of partners' - Wednesday 20 (13:00) - Thursday 21 June 2018

Supervisory Team

  • Professor Alex Hassett (first supervisor)
  • Professor Margie Callanan (second supervisor)
  • Dr Emma Williams

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Last edited: 19/12/2019 16:35:00