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Supporting the creation and evaluation of a workplace physical activity mentor programme with Lincolnshire Police Force (LPF)
LPF highlighted the physical wellbeing of staff as a priority area and wanted to encourage staff to become more physically active. There was an absence of any formalised national guidance, other than basic fitness requirements for police officers and LPF wished to develop an intervention to address this. Dr Hannah Henderson worked alongisde the assigned senior officer, Inspector Rachel Harrison, and created a peer support initiative that would encourage staff to become more active, the ‘Fitness Mentors’ programme. The programme requires a ‘mentor’ to meet with the referred colleague and conduct a series of health measures (e.g. blood pressure). The mentors provide tailored support and advice on how to become more active and make recommendations for a 10-week programme. Mentors dedicate at least four hours a week to the role (two hours of which can come from their duty time). Dr Henderson collaborated with Inspector Harrison to write a handbook for the ‘Fitness Mentor’ programme. The document detailed each stage of the process, from the point of referral, to the 10-week programme and post programme support. The handbook included all associated paperwork that the fitness mentors and participants would be required to complete. As the post of a fitness mentor was an appointed voluntary role, Dr Henderson’s expertise was leveraged to establish the skills and personal attributes required of candidates, and she collaborated with two other police staff for the recruitment and interview process.
Dr Henderson and her team have continued their involvement with the project when they were funded by LPF to evaluate the programme; examining how many staff accessed the scheme, what improvements in health were observed, and how effective the overall process was. The ‘Fitness Mentors’ programme received national recognition, when it was nominated and successfully awarded the ‘Protecting the Workforce’ award by The National Police Wellbeing Service (NPWS), known as Oscar Kilo, in March 2020. This was an incredible achievement for all involved.
Reducing Injury in the Police and Military
The modern police force is required to carry operational equipment, but to date there has been little consideration of an officers’ capacity to effectively carry this load. Weight baring (or load carriage) is associated with an increased risk of injury, police populations displaying high injury rates when compared to other occupations.
Academics within the School of Sport and Exercise Science, namely Dr Franky Mulloy, Dr Dan Bishop and Dr Anthony Gorman, embarked on a relationship with Lincolnshire Police to investigate the anecdotal reports of a high injury prevalence. A musculoskeletal injury survey was conducted, using 386 police officers, which identified that a large percentage of lower back (84% of all officers surveyed), neck (76%), and shoulder (66%) issues were prevalent in operational police officers within the last 12-months alone. Links to the operational equipment were identified as potential mechanisms for the long-term injuries.
Building on this work, Dr Franky Mulloy and Prof David Mullineaux established a 3-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (Innovate UK) with Arktis Ltd. Arktis are a global leader in the design and manufacture of police and military tactical wear, and they provide the majority of the 43 police forces in the UK with tactical vests and equipment. This fully funded project supported more in-depth research with Lincolnshire Police through an industry partner. With a KTP Associate added to the team, Dr Matthew Ellison, 38 police officers were brought into the Motion Capture Hub. The aim of the research was to establish how well tactical vests fit the body during dynamic tasks, and to investigate how best to load operational equipment on the body. Our findings identified where tactical vests could be altered to reduce stress on the smaller neck and back muscles, modifying coordination of the head and torso in running. Through these findings, Arktis tactical vests have now been altered with new prototype vests being tested prior to being released globally. The new designs should reduce the high number of overuse injuries seen in police forces. The partnership is also focusing on military loading to reduce injuries ‘in the field’.
Michelle Smith - MicSmith@lincoln.ac.uk
CPD lead role on the BPS Division of Forensic Psychology Committee.
Simon Durrant - SiDurrant@lincoln.ac.uk
Co-Director of the Lincoln Sleep Research Centre.
Susan Chipchase - SChipchase@lincoln.ac.uk
Consultant on Emotion and Galvanic Skin Response. Dentists’ emotions and clinical decision making (Scientific Advisor, P.I. - Helen Chapman)
Prof. Kerstin Meints - firstname.lastname@example.org
Director of Lincoln Infant and Child Development Lab and Head of Lincoln Education Assistance with Dogs (LEAD@lincoln).