RISK TYPE CHARACTERISTICS IN THE POLICING PROFESSION GEOFF TRICKEY & SO YI YEUNG Psychological Consultancy Limited, November 2011
Any occupation or profession tends to attract and retain people who are happy with the risk demands and exposure associated with it. Auditors, recruiters and engineers, as a population, contain different proportions of each Risk Type, and this is reflected in an organisation’s culture. The culture in a typical tax office, a typical PR company and a typical Civil Engineering company will be very different, partly as a result of these differences in the personalities involved – differences in resilience and risk tolerance. Traditional demands on police resources have been heightened by the prevalence of gun and knife crime and stretched by the addition of terrorist threat. On the crime front, the situation may be exacerbated by lack of parental and school discipline, a general lack of respect for authority and economic factors such as poverty and unemployment. The issues and challenges have also prompted wide policy discussions that have embraced innovative ideas about proactive, targeted, solution orientated policing policies, as well as placing emphasis on issues of local accountability to address the widening disparity between perceptions of the public and the reassurances of police departments. As a result, policing over recent years has undergone significant change. The Flanagan Report, published in February 2008, emphasises management of the risk exposure of the public and combating the harm posed by crime, but it also places the building of local confidence at the centre of its proposals for the future. Risk management is always a balance between striving to achieve objectives and avoiding the inevitable pit-falls. The protection of the public incurs operational risk, as does combating crime. High profile failures will also put public support at risk while, at the individual level, officers exposed to high levels of personal risk may develop stress related anxieties. Risk management in every work context has tended to focus on procedures and regulations designed to eliminate accidents. This emphasis has benefited from being data oriented and objective. The fact that individual differences in risk tolerance and resilience have seemed too complex and subjective to be useful has increased reliance on the Health and Safety approach. Our research over the past three years suggests that Risk Type differentiates effectively between individuals in terms of their risk tolerance - the levels of risk that they are comfortable with or attracted to. In terms of people management, team building and personal development, this offers a new perspective and new ‘people focused’ opportunities. Possible Police Issues The key point about risk tolerance is that it defines an individual’s resilience and the amount of risk, uncertainty and pressure that an officer can cope with. Lower risk tolerance is associated with anxiety and emotional vulnerability. From this point of view, it provides an estimate of an individual’s capacity to cope effectively with some extreme situations. An individual with a very low RTi (Risk Tolerance Index) would be more affected by RTA carnage, or situations of physical threat, or sustained periods of tension. The point is that some will cope well, others will not, and the personality differences between the two are well understood. The following are some specific questions about Risk Type and police operations: • What effect does Risk Type have on performance and absenteeism of those exposed to physical risk?
• Does Risk Type influence the ability of a critical incident commander to deploy resources into an environment where risk was present? • Would some Risk Types be more likely to take chances with organisational reputation and operational safety issues? • Does a healthy mix of risk types create the checks and balances that seem to have been lacking in banking and the financial sector? • What effect does Risk Type have on the decisions of the risk managers (Critical Incident Commanders, ACPO officers, Duty Inspectors, Firearms Officers, for example)? • Would awareness of Risk Type help to focus personal and career development?
Results The current study used the Risk-Type CompassTM questionnaire to examine the risk taking style of police. This study involved a volunteer sample of 117 participants. The study firstly examined differences in Risk Types across the sample. Risk Type identifies an individualâ€™s baseline tolerance for risk and their risk taking style. The percentage of the whole sample in each of the Risk Types is displayed in Figure 1.
Risk Type Distribution The data indicates that the police sample had a high proportion of individuals in the Wary Type (20%). This Risk Type is characterised as cautious, vigilant and unadventurous, and likely to keep security high on their agenda. They tend to have a respect for convention and tradition and prefer change to be gradual. There are far fewer individuals at the opposite end of the spectrum, in the Adventurous Risk Type (5%). The Adventurous Type is both impulsive and fearless. At the extreme, they combine a deeply constitutional calmness with a willingness to challenge tradition and convention. Figure 1. Percentage of each Risk Type in the sample. A further 10.6% of the sample fell into the Typical category; individuals whose profiles fall close to the mean on both axes of the Compass, showing no clear association with any of the Risk Types.
Wary Prudent Deliberate Composed Adventurous Carefree Spontaneous Intense
Comparison to the general population 25 20 15 10 5 0
Figure 2. Percentage of each Risk Type in the sample of police in comparison to the general population. The contrast shown in Figure 2 between the general population and the police sample distribution of Risk Types further suggests that specific factors are influencing the risk taking propensity of individuals within this profession. It is evident that there was a greater proportion of the police sample in the Wary Risk Type category, in comparison to the general population. Additionally, significantly fewer participants were categorised as Adventurous Risk Types, which is associated with approaches to risk that tend to be more impulsive and fearless.
Risk Attitudes 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Ethical
Figure 3. The percentage in the police sample group that rated each risk domain as their most preferable. Whilst Risk Type yields a stable indicator of someone’s risk taking style, risk attitude provides a useful measure of current preferences for taking different types of risk. Risk attitude can vary depending on personal circumstances and experience with risk. The Risk-Type Compass™ looks at five main areas of risk taking: financial, social, health and safety, ethical and recreational. The questionnaire presents different kinds of risky activities together and asks respondents to choose the activities that they would ‘Most’ and ‘Least’ prefer to do. The results shown in Figure 3 indicate that the sample were more comfortable with Health and Safety and Recreational risk, and less comfortable with Financial risk.
An algorithm was also created to incorporate all the personality and attitudinal elements assessed in the Risk-Type CompassTM to form a unified â€˜Risk Tolerance Indexâ€™, a 100 point scale that allows an individual to see clearly and quantifiably the extent to which their personality and attitudes contribute to their risk tolerance. Scores at the higher end of the index indicate a strong risk tolerance and signify that the individual is likely to be very comfortable taking higher levels of risks. Scores at the lower end of the index signify that an individual will be more risk averse and only comfortable with lower levels of risks or no risk at all. The Risk-Type CompassTM measures eighteen different personality elements, forming four personality factors, which are grouped into two main conceptually orthogonal scales, creating the Risk-Type CompassTM matrix. The two main scales are: 1) Calm:Emotional, which concerns the more emotional side of risk taking and 2) Daring:Measured, which indicates an individualâ€™s preference for a methodical approach at the lower end, or conversely, a spontaneous and adventurous approach to risk at the top end of the scale. Table 1 shows the average RTi for the police sample and the general population, as well as the raw scores on the Calm:Emotional and Daring:Measured personality scales. Group Police General Population
RTi 43.99 50.21
Calm:Emotional 110.70 114.60
Daring:Measured 81.91 85.53
Table 1. Average Risk Tolerance Index, Calm:Emotional and Daring:Measured scores for the police and general population