Policing with Empathy: In Conversation With LGBT and Young People From Disadvantaged Backgrounds

Closed 27 Jul 2022

Opened 4 Apr 2022


Recent research exploring how police officers interact with members of the public has turned to considering the role of empathy and how they respond to different communities within society.

It is now apparent the role of displaying empathy in communication, such as during conversations with witnesses and victims of crime, is considered to be of crucial importance. Empathy goes beyond how the police communicate with witnesses and victims, but also includes interviews with suspects which not only builds rapport but can to be beneficial in eliciting information and detecting crime. There is a need for an awareness of how members of the public identify themselves and take in to account their background experiences.

Operationally this may be challenging as the core function of the police is to protect communities, investigate crime and gather evidence, however, the modern day police service must be aware of who they come in to contact with and how these encounters are managed, and seen to be managed, in terms of awareness of inclusivity, civility and respect. Operating in such a way will reduce the “them and us” perspective, therefore, the police can be seen to be part of the community rather than set apart from it.

The qualitative methodology employed by the practitioners at Abertay University has a two-fold approach:

  • Firstly the research team will use focus groups involving young people from a range of different backgrounds, including young people who identify as LGBTQ, to examine their past experiences with the police and gain an understanding of what their expectations are.
  • Secondly, using publicly available Police Scotland policy, planning documents and training materials, analyse the role empathy and understanding of seldom heard voices play in the organisation.

The findings and final report will provide Police Scotland with recommendations, incorporating teaching material, to create an awareness and enhance future learning opportunities for police officers and staff. 


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