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Main building, auditorium A1, address: Kalevantie 4.

Harri Gustafsberg

Doctoral defence of M.Sc. (Admin.) Harri Gustafsberg

“DO PEOPLE GET SHOT BECAUSE SOME COPS PANIC?”  :  Enhancement of individual resilience through a police resilience and efficiency training program

The field of science of the dissertation is Administrative Science, Security Management.

The opponent is professor Jouni Kivistö-Rahnasto (Tampere University of Technology). Professor Sirpa Virta acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is Finnish.

“DO PEOPLE GET SHOT BECAUSE SOME COPS PANIC?”    Enhancement of individual resilience through a police resilience and efficiency training program

The dissertation presents and discusses the findings of a research and development project conducted on resilience of individuals in the context of law enforcement. The people comprising an organization are the most important asset of any organization. The personnel of an organization should be able to rely on their mental resources facilitating flexibility, development and recovery from the strain of work so as to meet the challenges they face in their organizational positions. These features of a functional individual will be referred to here as resilience. An organization should offer an individual a functional environment where to apply, strengthen and develop one’s human potential. Any straining work and the related mental burden cause a train of various physiological changes with many effects on an individual’s situational awareness and the ability to make decisions with ultimate effects being reflected on the quality of work and the effectiveness of the individual. These processes will in turn determine the reliability and relevance of the situational picture an organization has at its disposal, the situational picture being a rather static tool of management and decision making and as such being dependent on the accuracy and quality of dynamic situational awareness of the individual. Police work offers an excellent context for researching demanding work tasks having effects on these psychophysiological processes in the human being.

The research project aimed firstly at an individual level to find out whether we can harness the psychological burden of work, influence the quality of work and to enhance overall work performance of the individual.

A secondary derived research problem at an organizational level focused on organizational resilience to find out whether we can influence resilience, i.e. the flexibility, efficiency and productivity of an organization by enhancing the performance of individuals. Use of force by and also the safety of law enforcement personnel have been very much in the news while the very same themes are discussed and closely analyzed as problems of increasing concern inside the police organization. The reported results based on data gathered in situations simulating demanding police work show that stress reactions may change the course of operations for better or worse depending partially on the body-mind state of involved law enforcement officers.

These effects and changes are mediated by various perceptual, situational awareness related and decision making connected processes taking place in involved actors. Whatever sphere of organizational activity demanding decision making we choose to focus on, it is evident that the processes arising at an individual level will have cumulative effects on the quality, efficiency and productivity of the whole organization. The research findings, though based on data gathered from individual processes and performance, allow extrapolation onto the level of the organization as suggestions for development of leadership and managerial practices.

The research subjects were able to significantly improve their performance through e.g. training-induced changes in their physiological stress responses, such as the heart rate. The participants learned to consciously control their breathing this enabling them to harness stress-related effects in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) ultimately detrimental to the quality of mental processes and performance if let go on uncontrolled. The iPREP training method improved significantly the participants’ competence in handling and controlling workload and related stress responses. Compared with the controls the intervention group showed better situational awareness and improved performance especially where required to make on-the-spot decisions on use of force. This competence is referred to as individual resilience, as a distinct but related concept from organizational resilience. Organizational resilience is founded on the resilience of the individuals comprising the organization, and their work performance contributes to the organization’s effectiveness and productivity.


The dissertation is published in the Suomen Mentoritiimi Oy, Tampere 2018.

The dissertation can be ordered at: yliopistopaino@juvenesprint.fi, 020 756 8693, Juvenes Print, www.juvenesprint.fi.

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