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Trauma in the line of duty : an evaluation of the use of debriefing in the New Zealand Police : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University
The effects of traumatic exposure on police officers are of increasing concern to the New Zealand Police. Effects can be of a physical, behavioural, or psychological nature, and in some circumstances, Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop. In March 1992, the New Zealand Police Trauma Policy was introduced to provide formalised debriefing to help reduce the development of traumatic stress symptoms. However, the effectiveness of debriefing in the mitigation of traumatic stress symptoms is a matter of contention. The primary aim of the present study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the New Zealand Police Trauma Policy in the mitigation of traumatic stress symptoms, including physical and psychological symptoms, and PTSD. Sixty-eight police officers, and their partners, involved in the deliberate slaying of a police officer were surveyed by questionnaire, approximately five years after the event. The results of regression analyses showed that debriefing was positively related to PTSD symptoms, and had no statistically significant influence on physical or psychological outcomes. These results support the findings of other controlled studies that suggest debriefing has no beneficial effect on mitigating symptoms of PTSD, and substantiate suggestions that debriefing may instead exacerbate symptoms. In addition, 78 % of the sample did not receive debriefing, despite its mandatory status for such events. It is concluded that the efficacy of debriefing is doubtful, and further evaluation research is needed.