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Embracing Evidence-Based Practices in Policing with Dr. Susanne Knabe-Nicol, Ph.D

Updated: Apr 17

U.K. police veteran, investigative psychologist, advocate for evidence-based policing, and founder of Police Science, Dr. Susanne Knabe-Nicol, Ph.D., discusses her current work in making sound scientific research available in digestible video formats through an online global platform to active law enforcement leadership and frontline officers to foster and support an evidence-based approach to reform and transformation in policing and public safety -- both in terms of officer safety and wellbeing and improvements in law enforcement practice and community relations.

The need to evolve policing to the same evidence-based practice standards that we demand and expect in medicine and other professions... establishing law enforcement best practices grounded in quality scientific research.

How traditional modes of policing damage police-community relations, as well as the law enforcement professionals themselves, and the need to change to a more human-centered, emotionally intelligent approach and law enforcement culture.

The critical role of leaders in removing the stigmas associated with self-care and mental health care and to lead the way in modeling good self-care practices and getting regular mental health check-ups.

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Embracing Evidence-Based Practices in Policing with Dr. Susanne Knabe-Nicol, Ph.D Transcript

Fleet Maull: 

Hi! Welcome to another session on day six of the Global First Responder Resilience Summit.  Today our focus is leading healthy change in public safety. I am here with Dr. Susanne Knabe Nicol. So, welcome, Susanne. 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

Thank you very much. That was a pretty good pronunciation. 

Fleet Maull: 

I did my best. 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

It often goes very wrong. 

Fleet Maull: 

Knabe, is it a German name? 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

You would think Knabe is German. It is actually a German word. It's old-fashioned for boy or  lad. But I think it's actually Swedish. I think there was a Swedish person called Knabe, who  went over to Poland and had some generations of people. And then, my parents moved to  Germany. So, it's a bit of a trick, I think. It sounds German. It is German, but it actually comes  from Sweden somehow. 

Fleet Maull: 

So, you pronounce it as Knabe [ka-na-ba] then? 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

Knabe [ka-na-ba]. 

Fleet Maull: 

Knabe [ka-na-ba]. Okay. So, Dr. Knabe Nicol. I'm going to share a bit of your bio to familiarize  our audience with your work, and then we'll just jump right into the conversation. Okay?

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

Yes, sure.  

Fleet Maull: 

Okay. So, Dr. Knabe Nicol worked in the United Kingdom (UK) policing for over a decade and  completed a Ph.D. in investigative psychology part-time. She set up a Police Science Dr to  create a broad range of research-based videos. The plan is for a global communication  platform for researchers and practitioners, as well as a collection of police-relevant courses all  in one place.  

Susanne has the desire to make research accessible and skilled herself up to be able to  create online courses and interactive videos. So, now, she wants to help the policing  community with these assets. There was an awful lot of great research being done and  published, but then only read by other academics. This just doesn't make sense. So, she started  turning research into videos as every officer can make time to watch a short video, but they  might not be able to access and digest a research paper.  

Let's start with your background in policing. You had a varied career being involved  with both investigations and then culture change and improvements in policing, with both the  Suffolk and Norfolk Constabulary, if I'm pronouncing it right, in the United Kingdom. So, could  you talk a bit about that background? 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

As I said, there were a number of different roles and actually a number of forces as well. I  started out as a Uniformed Police Community Support Officer. Similar uniform to police  officers. 

This role is sort of always defined as the eyes and ears for the police and community policing. You have your patch. You build relationships with the residents, with a community, with shopkeepers. You have many of the powers of a police officer, many of the jobs, but you  don't have the power to arrest, which I didn't mind at the time. I wasn't keen to start wrestling  with people and rolling around on the floor. That was not for me.  

That was my first experience of policing. I did that in London, briefly only because I  signed up to do that job after applying to do the Masters in Investigative Psychology. But I had  just missed the deadline, so I thought I'd do that for a year and get some policing experience, which I thought would be really useful. It actually took a lot longer to get in than I thought  with the whole recruitment process, assessment centers, and vetting. It took five months. So, I  only had the spring and summer to actually do that role.  

I then did my master's full time and then, after that, went back into working and did a  variety of roles like region intelligence analyst, major crime researcher, and investigator. That  was quite interesting because I was working in the Custody Investigation Unit, preparing  interviews, carrying out interviews with suspects, preparing files for court. And then, I started  working in what we would call evidence-based policing, which you described as culture  change and improvements.  

After that, I then left the police and worked for the Cambridge Center of evidence based policing as Director of Communications. After I had finished my Ph.D., which I've been  doing part-time this whole time, I think it took about eight years. I also set up a website, which  is Police Science Dr as you mentioned, because I thought there was so much fantastic  information out there about policing and criminology, investigative psychology, and everything  that could help the police practitioner and law enforcement, but it wasn't being communicated  to the law enforcement practitioner. It was mainly being consumed by other people who were  doing similar research.  

I wanted to create this channel of research finding relevant, "Here you go. You're the  one who is going to use it." I'll package that in a video as a podcast, as little visual snippets, and I do a live stream every Tuesday. Everybody who's on my email list gets an email with free  Police Science Snippets every Tuesday. So, these are golden nuggets of information that are  actionable that I think they should know about and they might want to know about. And so, that's what I do with Police Science Dr. This is where we are. 

Fleet Maull: 

Well, it's really important. I've watched a number of the videos. I think this is so important to  get this research in the hands of the people that can really implement it and use it because  otherwise, it's just a conversation, as you said, among academics, and it's not going to really  have the impact that it needs to have.  

You kind of answered my second question, what inspired you to start Police Science  Dr? But then perhaps you could talk more about what is evidence-based policing? What do we  mean by that?

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

Evidence-based practice, in general, is simply doing something that has been tried and tested.  Fortunately, we have come become accustomed to expecting medicine and medical procedures  to have been tried and tested before they're being performed on us. You wouldn't really take  medication if it hadn't been approved, tested in some kind of circumstances. They often start  with mice, and then they hope that somehow it relates to how humans would respond and  have human trials.  

This has become quite common in medicine. We expect that, but when it comes to  policing and some other practices, education, for example, our education system is not  evidence-based. We've been teaching in schools and in universities the same way we've been  doing it for hundreds of years. Somebody stands at the front and speaks at people. They're  supposed to absorb it, understand it, process it, and supposed be able to use it. Well, that  doesn't really work, but we're doing it the same way it's always been done.  

Evidence-based practice is the opposite of doing things the way they've always been  done. It's questioning. "Hang on. So, how are we doing this? Is there a better way of doing it?" Let's compare the two. Let's test. So, we set up a little pilot study, a little research project. And  then we try and find, okay, which one of those two practices works better, and then we should  carry on with the one that does work better. We should replicate it. We should fine-tune it. We should then roll it out further.  

Evidence-based practice means to make sure that what you're doing has been shown  to work. If it hasn't been shown to work, test it. And if it doesn't work better than something  you're comparing it to, adjust it or drop it.  

In policing, really, the policing has changed so much because the demands of the  communities, the demands of crime have changed so much that we haven't really caught up  yet. As we were talking about earlier, new findings are not being communicated down to  practitioners. New police officers have a certain number of weeks of initial training, and then  they might have some refresher training. They might have some special training when they  become police detectives, for example. But other than that, there is no regular way of  refreshing their knowledge and their skills.  

I think there is the case with medicine. I think doctors have some kind of system set up  for them, where they refresh their knowledge on what the new research findings are, what the new guidelines are, and guidelines are being updated all the time. In policing, it's much slower. I think it could be improved a lot. 

In terms of becoming more evidence-based, there are a lot of initiatives. There are  societies of evidence-based policing in the UK. That was the first one. I'm working with them  on the communications and other conferences. There is one in New Zealand and Australia.  There's one in Canada, one in America. There are other organizations and companies that are  trying to embed evidence-based practice more in policing. Some of that is coming from the  private sector.  

I find that very interesting, but the evidence-based practice also means investigative  psychology, for example. It has been tried and tested how best to interview suspects,  witnesses, how not to interview, how to investigate, how you can make your investigations  more efficient. All of that is evidence-based practice because it has been tested by researchers  who are studying the field. And then, we just need to make sure. 

And again, that's something that I try to do. We bring that knowledge to the  practitioner. So, there's a lot of information that I share for free, but I also work together with  subject matter experts, some of whom have conducted that research, to create training based  on their findings. The Police Science Dr. Academy is a growing research resource for that  training courses to bring that evidence-based practice to the practitioner. 

Fleet Maull: 

Such important work. I would imagine one place where probably science has been more  present in policing has probably been in forensics and some of the technology there and  science of forensics, but operationally and I'm wondering if evidence-based policing gets down  to the level of how to do community policing or very especially with everything that's been on  the last couple of years. Well, for a long time. Finally, we're dealing with it socially and  politically, with the use of force, use of deadly force, and so forth. So, is there much research  and evidence being done around how to develop policy and operational procedures based on  science and evidence? 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

There is. You talked earlier about culture change. We do require a culture change because the  authoritative way of policing is damaging and harmful. It's damaging to community relations. It's damaging to the officers who are being put more at risk because they are being met with  hostility from the communities, and it's damaging for the communities.

There are better ways of policing that are depending much more on what's called softer  skills. They haven't quite got the respect yet in the very masculine testosterone-driven world  of policing because they are things like listening skills, empathy, and emotional intelligence, and simple communication. You need to be a good communicator. But we are still recruiting  testosterone-driven people into policing. 

When you look at many recruitment videos for police forces or police agencies,  departments, there is fast music, there are cars with sirens, red light, blue lights, and slapping  handcuffs on someone, rolling around on the floor, seizing drugs, when actually only about  20% of calls that come into police are about crime. The vast majority is about other issues.  Many of them are mental health issues. So really, we should be looking for people who have  social work skills, who have educational skills, who can really speak to people who have  maybe a background in therapy.  

Also, there are some factors that are correlated to less use of force in policing. For  example, police officers who have a university degree, when they get in, tend to use less of  less force. And also more diverse officers, women, and people from other ethnic groups. If you  have a more mixed force, you have fewer incidents of violence, which is safer for the  community and safer for policing. So, we're still recruiting the masculine macho type of people.  That is wrong because that doesn't match the demands of the job. It doesn't match with how  people want to be treated and need to be treated and need to be dealt with because many of  them are in a state of emotional crisis when they're interacting with the police.  

The police are cynical, and I totally understand why. They're interacting with one  person after the other, after the other, after the other. They are in a kind of crisis – screaming,  shouting, scared. Especially response officers who are going to the calls and not having wonderful, nice conversations over tea with the members of the public, are they? They are  making life and death decisions on the spot. They are there to protect people from others and  from themselves. That is a very, very difficult job.  

I can't think of many other jobs in the world where what you're supposed to be doing is,  by definition, always going to go against someone's will. Maybe parking attendants, and you  know, they're not very popular either. Unfortunately, you don't interact with them too much.  You see a ticket in your car, you might swear, and you take it.

Fleet Maull: 

I've been absurd with a few parking attendants. 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

Exactly. And the police, you know, they come when there's a problem. So, you don't have  positive interactions with them. You don't have many opportunities to have very positive  interactions with them. The whole way that policing is done at the moment is set up for  negative experiences, unfortunately. I've given a lot of information now. I don't know if I'm  answering the question anymore. 

Fleet Maull: 

No, it's really good. We really haven't prepared our police officers to interact with the public in  skillful ways. We're not saying there aren't officers who do. There certainly are officers out  there with a lot of community policing skills. But in general, we haven't trained, prepared, recruited people with that in mind and haven't given them the skills to keep themselves safe  other than just, you know, brute force or numbers.  

And so, yeah, there's a lot of things. A lot of my background work is in the corrections  field. It's really the same thing there. I mean, modern corrections. It's hard to even call it  modern corrections. It's just barely moving into evidence-based work. It's just as damaging to  the officers the way the work is done, and that's why we have such high rates of suicidality  among police officers and correctional officers, and other first responders. And so, working in  that way is damaging to them, damaging to everyone involved. And so, it's a much-needed change. It is culture change. I think it does have a lot to do with recruitment.  

I was part of a National Institute of Corrections Think Tank Project a number of years  back. One of the projects that we zeroed in on was really workforce change. And really, what  needed to change was really the curriculum and the criminal justice programs and the  recruitment practices of law enforcement and correctional agencies. And really, like you were  saying, we need people with more of social work background, more training in psychology, and  then also all the necessary training and security and police operations or correctional  operations and so forth. But instead, we're tending to draw upon military veterans and people  that are kind of attracted to the testosterone-driven approach, which is not necessarily  masculine. There is healthy masculinity, but you're referencing that kind of very macho, old school masculine, which is really, I think, a long-overdue process of cultural change. It's going  to be good for everybody. 

I mean, it's certainly going to be difficult for some folks in law enforcement who are  kind of old school and used to that way, but in the end, it's really going to be healthier for  everybody. I think, from the work I'm doing out in the world, I'm seeing among young recruits  coming into the academies much more interest in a healthier approach to their careers. And  even though some of them are still coming in for kind of the wrong reasons, right, because of  the recruitment practices.  

So, you've had a lot of experience in the investigative side of police work. I'm wondering  if there are ways that even investigative work has been done. There are the police who are out  there in the community who end up making the arrest to go on the calls and confront a lot of  uncertainty and danger. You pull someone over here in the US because there are so many guns  in the community. I mean, a police officer who's pulling someone over for a traffic ticket even has to be very cautious and potentially nervous, and it pulls someone over with more  dangerous signals, right. There's a lot of risks there for the police officers that are out in the  community, interacting with the public and making arrests, and so forth. 

I'm wondering if, in the way that investigative policing has been done, if there is also a  lot of danger or burnout and PTSD because of ongoing exposure to chronic stress. I mean,  investigative police, I don't know enough about that to speak directly. But I suppose there's the  kind of post, you know, the more analytical and lab-based, but then there are the actual  investigators that go out to the crime scenes. They're experiencing a lot of secondary trauma, I  would imagine. 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

Yes, because obviously, we're separating here response policing, the officers who actually go  to an incident and deal with it there and then, and then the ones who come in after that to  investigate all of that. They might not have the urgency of, you know, I need to intervene  straight away to protect this person. But there can be a lot of secondary trauma.  

In order to investigate something properly, you have to understand the crime really  well. You have to do the research into what's happened, get the information from all the  different kinds of sources that you possibly can, you need to be very, very skilled. And that's  becoming a lot more apparent now than it used to be in how to speak to people and how to  interview.  

I find it funny when people don't see the connection between psychology and policing  because policing is literally single-handedly only about people interacting with people. There's nothing else in policing. It's about crime, preventing crime, investigating crime. That's all got to  do with people and behavior. Behavior is psychology. So, there's psychology in every single  aspect of policing, maybe not in the forensic DNA analysis. That is a different kind of science.  But in terms of behavioral science, it's very, very relevant.  

It's relevant when we interview witnesses after an incident, how we interview them,  how we make sure that we get that information out of their heads in a way that doesn't  actually taint the information because of how we are asking, or when we are asking. It's  important how we interact with the suspect. So, we're moving away from the whole—well, we have moved away definitely from the coercive tactics and authoritative stance and interviews  in a much more collaborative approach.  

The person is a suspect. They may or may not have committed the offense. That's one  thing. They might be completely innocent, but you want to get information from them, either  information that shows you that they are not involved, information that you didn't have before, whether they were involved or not, or information that shows you they are involved. So, you  need to get that suspect to work with you and to cooperate with you, and there are ways of  doing that. It's not the authoritative approach. It's not the deceptive dominant approach at all.  

So there's so much psychology in the whole interviewing process and investigations.  I'm really interested in that aspect, actually, and then I'm creating a number of courses with  experts on that for the Academy. In terms of burnout, because you need to do so much  research of a case and especially cases that tend to be more upsetting - sexual assaults, child  sexual abuse, the officers have to really dig into that information. They have to process it. And  they have to then speak to the person that may have committed those offenses. And they need  to show that person due respect. They need to show them empathy and understanding, and  they need to be very open-minded. They should not approach them with a mindset of I'm  judging you, or I think you did it at all. That's very difficult. I know that from my experience of  being an interviewer. It's very difficult not to make up your mind beforehand. It happens.  Sometimes without you noticing it.  

There is secondary exposure, definitely, because you also speak to the victims, and you  hear their experiences and their story, and then you speak to the person who may have  committed that, so that's very upsetting. And then there's obviously the people who are very,  very important, and I don't know how they do it, who have to go through all the materials that  may contain child sexual abuse material. I would never want to see a single image or piece of footage of that at all. But they're going through that, and it needs to be done. The potential for  trauma, I think, is immense for that.  

However, in some cases, they tend to have fewer traumatic symptoms because their job  is valued. It's valued by colleagues, it's valued by security, and it's valued by the public.  Whereas response officers, as we were talking about earlier, they are always very often  dealing with someone who doesn't want them there. So, they don't get that appreciation very  often. They're vilified in the media, with one officer somewhere in the world doing something  wrong. All of a sudden, the police all over the world may be stoned. It's a very, very strange  phenomenon. So, there's so much potential for trauma in investigations as well. It's difficult to  make the right decision if somebody is a very good investigator who deals with sexual abuse,  child abuse. Should they stay in that role? Or should they move on because they need some  respite from it? 

It's a difficult decision to make because you need to look after the mental health of that  person. You need to look after the mental health of every police officer, every member of staff,  and we're not doing enough at all. You were talking earlier about how they're being taught  how to look after themselves, but that's only physically. They're not being taught how to look  after themselves mentally and emotionally at all. 

Fleet Maull: 

I'd like to follow up on a couple of points here. I mean, what I think the general citizenry  doesn't realize is the world that our police officers live in, whether they're on the response side or the investigation side, you know, just seeing things and having to deal with things and talk  about things and hear about things that most of us just never have to deal with.  

I think we don't have enough appreciation for the challenges of what they deal with. I  want to get to the impact of trauma and what police need to take care of themselves. But  before that, back to your emphasis that it really is a lot about behavioral psychology and  policing as people work, right. It's all about interactions between human beings.  

I'm curious. I know that some police officers and some senior officers, maybe even some  investigators get advanced degrees in psychology. But is there actually any required training a  police officer moves into investigations becomes a detective in the length of their career?  Would they necessarily really receive any training in psychology unless they voluntarily choose to go pursue an advanced degree on their own?

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

I don't think they get any specific training on psychology. Here in the UK, if you become a  detective, you get advanced training on witness interviewing and suspect interviewing, which  might take two or three weeks. But then again, that's it. It is mainly the guidance of it. It's not  that much psychology, and there's so much more that could be taught. I've recently released a  course with a very renowned psychologist and scientist called Professor Ray Paul. He is one of  the big giants when it comes to investigative interviewing of suspects, for example. It's a short  course. It's an introductory course. Everybody's welcome to take it. It's called How Best To Interview Suspects. I think it's going to be the officers and the investigators who take little take the initiative  to improve their skills further, rather than just rely on what the department is giving them in  terms of training who may do better in these kinds of roles and these kinds of tasks because I  think the basic training. Some people are natural police. They're naturally great with people. They're naturally open-minded and positive. It comes across in how they deal with people, but  others have a different mindset. The training could benefit everyone.  

Unfortunately, there's no specific teaching of psychology that is being brought out to  everyone. Here in the UK, what's interesting at the moment is that something that's recently  started is the degree apprenticeship. So, everyone who becomes a police officer in the first  three years of training whilst they are becoming fully-fledged independent and qualified police  officers, they're also getting a degree.  

There are three routes into that. Eventually, everybody has a degree if they didn't  already have one in policing, and that is to acknowledge the immense amount of learning and,  and skills that you attain whilst you're a police officer, rather than thinking, well, it's just  something that you do, and then you might leave after ten years, and you have no  qualifications. Well, actually, you don't have a policing degree.  

It was being met with skepticism because people thought you had to have a degree  before you go into policing. Why is that necessary to exclude so many people? I agree with  that. I don't think everyone who could be a fantastic police officer needs to have a degree  before they start, but they will now get one whilst they are becoming a police officer, which I  think is actually quite good. So there are a lot of universities now involved and have contracts  with police agencies to provide some of that training. That's great potential to infuse police  training with more and more behavioral science, I think.

Fleet Maull: 

That's brilliant. I think it's a really smart idea. And also, getting a college degree brings with it  certain credibility and self-esteem, and so forth. I think it can just bring more dignity to the job.  Right? I mean, you said there's evidence showing that the police officers who have a college  degree are less likely to inappropriately use force when it's not necessary. So, that seems to be  all to the good.  

You mentioned self-care. I know that we have not provided anywhere near enough  support and knowledge around good self-care and good post-critical incident care. We've  developed a model called Mindfulness-Based Wellness and Resiliency initially for correctional  officers primarily, but now we're working with police, probation, and parole, lots of public  safety officials.  

Fortunately, there is a tremendous amount of science about this. It's not directly related  to policing yet, although there is some research, and we're going to be presenting some of that  research here at the summit. But there's a lot of research around trauma and trauma treatment  and self-care and the risks of PTSD and the antecedents of PTSD and really how to mitigate the risk of ongoing exposure to chronic stress, primary and secondary trauma.  

So there's a lot of research out in the world about that. What do you see in terms of  bringing that research into policing so that we can give police officers the information they  need to take good care of themselves off shift to maybe do their jobs in ways that aren't quite  so damaging to themselves? And also, to get the kind of support they need, following some  kind of critical incident they might be involved in. 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

Yeah. The frustrating thing about that is that all the knowledge that we need and all the tools  that are already in existence are just not being applied. I recently held a webinar on mental  health and policing. Anyone watching this is very welcome to watch the replay. It's just for mental health.  

I had interviewed 12 people from all over the world, practitioners, and experts, on some  of the aspects about mental health and policing. And then, what I pulled together was a PDF  that you can download on that page as well with what we need to do about it to turn our  police force into a healthy one. There are certain aspects you do. So, one is you start at the top.  You make sure that the chief of police or whatever they may be called, they may be  Commissioner, they may be captain, whoever is the head of the organization, it does need to start with them to an extent. So, they should be going regularly to get a mental health  checkup. And then, they should come back to their staff and say, "I've had a mental health  checkup. It was fine. I want all of you to do it." It needs to be mandatory.  

The thing was, if the chief does that, and if it's mandatory, that removes the stigma, and  that removes the option of, "Oh, no. I need to appear masculine. I need to appear like I'm tough and that I don't need that." Well, if you if you're being told to do it, you do it. That's one good  thing about the police. Things could be done quickly because you can tell people what to do. It's not a very demographic organization. However, things are still much too slow. So, the  culture change starts with the chief, and it needs to trickle down. The chief needs to be a lot  more embracing of mental health care of their staff and themselves and maybe just talk about it openly.  

Then the internal and external provisions then should be offered. So, one massive  aspect is training. We train our officers to apply handcuffs, to do some basic self-defense, some grappling on the floor, and we give them equipment to keep their bodies safe. The boots,  the helmet, stabbed vests, we call it. Bulletproof vests, I guess, in America. But we don't give them the training to keep their mind safe.  

Once you've been in a fight, how do you process that? People don't usually have those  kinds of experiences in their normal lives if they're not police officers, I hope. So, we're not  really teaching them enough about how to cope with the aftermath and how to deal with  experiences and everything that comes with the job nearly as much as we should. So, that  should be in the basic training, and it should be an ongoing refresher. And they should be  mandated to have mental health checkups with a professional  

So, you've got chief for the culture. You've got the training provisions in the beginning  and throughout for any level. And then, you need to have internal provisions where you offer  peer support. And many departments and forces are doing that where volunteers are being  trained in supporting colleagues. So, that could be the first point of contact and just offer some  listening opportunity, talking opportunity, a chat to any member of the force or their family  even. They can then signpost for further support. And that's confidential, so there's peer  support. You also need to have internal professional support. So, counselors and psychologists within the police have an open door for anyone to come in as often as they need about any  topic. So, they may not be stressed about the job per se. They may have stress at home. And  that's very, very impactive. It can impact how you work because we are all people. We don't  just switch off from one thing to the next. We need to have those internal provisions of support. And we need to have external provisions of support because police are very cynical,  and they often don't trust that the internal professionals are really confidential and will not  affect their standing, their reputation, their career prospects. So, we also need to have external provisions. But these need to be provided by psychologists, counselors, coaches who really  understand law enforcement because one big drawback if you're going to a normal counselor is they don't understand the job of policing well enough. So, you need to have cultural change  with the chief, training, internal provisions, external provisions.  

And then, if you implement all of those, then I think you can really turn your police force  around. I did recently interview a police chief who did provide all of that support. His insurance  bill dropped massively to the extent that the insurance company called up and said, "What are  you doing? What is going on here? This is great. We're paying out so much less." So, the tools are there. The knowledge is there. It just needs to be applied and needs to be taken by the  right people and put into practice. 

Fleet Maull: 

Absolutely. That's the whole purpose of this summit, really. I love why you just said it's so  comprehensive. You exercise leadership. Leadership really is important in removing that stigma  around mental health.  

Unfortunately, in some first responder agencies in the past, if you went to see a  counselor, that could really hurt your career. You could be considered unfit for duty and so  forth. I think that's changing very broadly across first responder agencies, but there's still the  stigma there.  

My friend and colleague, Lieutenant Rich Goerling, who's a presenter for this summit and one of our co-hosts, often references that if you're going to do this work, you need to do  your regular mental health checkups. It's just part of the deal. You know you're going to have  the exposure, so you got to take care of yourself. He just referenced his mental health coach. Just like he regularly gets a physical with his physician, he also sees his mental health coach  on a regular basis. I think the importance of removing that stigma, and probably no more  effective way than to get the leadership to lead the way on removing that stigma, as you said. Absolutely.  

You've been dedicated to making high-quality research available to police and to police  officials and police on the streets through your current project. I'm wondering if you're  beginning to see some uptake on this, if you're beginning to see more interest from both police leaders and rank and file police in evidence-based policing, in the data, in thinking about new  ways of doing things that may be different than what was passed on to them. Is there a shift?  Do you see an emerging shift? 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

I think there's definitely a big interest in evidence-based policing. So, obviously, I've got a  number of different topics that are covered in my videos, but the ones surrounding evidence based policing are always some of the more popular ones because we have now, as I  mentioned earlier, there are organizations around the world that are doing a lot of work in that. 

The idea of evidence-based policing, first really brought to the fore by Professor  Sherman, is being spread out across the entire globe. So, there's a lot of good work that is  being done because they've got the Masters in Cambridge, for example, that a lot of aspiring  police leaders go to graduate from. They need to carry out a research project that is evidence based back in their own home force, and then they go back, and they get promoted, and they  can hopefully make some good changes and implement some good changes. So, a lot of police  leaders are really catching up with that idea, which is fantastic.  

I can see through the feedback that I get. Every week I send out my Police Science snippets. I get feedback from all over the world. I've got people from some very obscure  countries that I wouldn't have expected emailing me back saying this is really interesting, this  is really useful. There is an interest, and there is a thirst which is why it's so emotionally  rewarding to be doing this work. 

Fleet Maull: 

Well, it's really important. I really encourage everyone to check out your website,, is it? 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 


Fleet Maull: 

Yeah, is just a rich array of material there already. I know you're adding  more interviews all the time. You're starting to create courses and so forth. And it's just really  accessible, really accessible conversations in video. It's a quick way to get valuable  information. So, I really encourage the audience to check that out. 

We're just about near the end of our time here. I'm wondering if you had the  opportunity to, let's say, to come to speak at a conference with a thousand police leaders in the  audience, chiefs and captains, and policymakers as well. What would you say? What would your essential message be in terms of what's really needed from our leadership in leading the  way to a healthier approach to policing and law enforcement and just community safety  altogether? 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

Yeah. If I was able to address the police leaders, I would say it starts with you. The tools are  there. I want you to use them. It actually pays. You will save a lot of money if you invest in the  mental and emotional well-being of your staff. You need to be an advocate and a champion of  mental health change in your department, in your force. You need to actively show that you're  advocating that and that you're using it, and that you want it to be implemented. You need to  supply the provisions, and all that information is there.  

Also, the other thing I would like to mention is for this particular audience for this  particular summit. There is actually a course as well on the Police Science Dr. Academy. If you  go to, you will find the Emergency Stress Pitstop Course. I've  actually provided a coupon code for, I think, 30% off for people who attend this summit  because I think it's very, very important that you make some kind of start in building up  resilience to stress.  

This is an online coaching program, in its essence by a police stress expert who's put  that together. It's for people to work through in their own time, but it helps them to cope with  things they've already experienced in terms of symptoms and in terms of experiences, but it  also builds up resilience for anything that might come in the future. It's so important. It's like  the stab vest or the bulletproof vest that you wear to work. This provides a bit of a mental and  emotional vest. So, I would encourage you to have a look at that and see if that might be right  for you.  

That's Again, police leaders, it starts with you. If you start  the change, it will have a much bigger impact than if you wait for someone else to do it. It will  save you a lot of money. You will have fewer days of sick from your staff. You will have fewer  insurance claims, and you will have much better retention. You will have fewer incidents of  accidents and use of force if you have a relaxed, mentally capable police force. So, it starts with  you. Don't pass the buck on to someone else.

Fleet Maull: 

Well said. Well said. We'll make sure that the coupon code is available to our summit  audience. Thank you so much. This is so important because I think law enforcement leaders,  public safety leaders, at least here in the US, know that the profession is really challenged  right now for lots of reasons. Recruitment is very difficult. People are leaving the profession, so  there's a tremendous amount of mandatory overtime. Most agencies are having trouble  keeping their rank skills.  

And then, you already have high stress over chronic stress exposure, trauma-exposed workforce, and now you're asking them to do mandatory overtime, which exacerbates  everything. It's a vicious cycle going in the wrong way, and it needs to turn around so it can  again become a healthy profession with high esteem that attracts people for the right reasons.  We know how to get there. Right? I think you just described the starting point of how to get  there. So, thank you so much for this, Dr. Susanne Knabe Nicol from Thank you so much. 

Susanne Knabe Nicol: 

Thank you very much for having me. Best of luck.


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