First National Police Uniform and Equipment Survey Launched by Lancaster University, UK

Image courtesy of Lancaster University

Police officers and staff across England and Wales are set to be surveyed about their experiences with their standard issue uniforms and equipment as part of a new national initiative.

Starting from 1 July, researchers at Lancaster University, in collaboration with the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) and the National Uniform Portfolio under the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC), have launched the first-ever national survey on police uniforms and equipment. This survey will reach 200,000 police officers and staff.

Lancaster University Law School researchers Dr Camilla De Camargo and Dr Stephanie Wallace are spearheading this survey to capture a comprehensive overview of the daily experiences of police officers and staff, aiming to identify key issues with uniforms and equipment and areas needing improvement.

“This is an exciting opportunity for those wearing uniforms to voice their concerns and influence changes in uniform policies.

“With voluntary resignations in policing across England and Wales at an all-time high, it is essential for police forces to enhance staff retention by prioritising well-being and inclusive practices,” commented Dr De Camargo, lecturer and policing researcher at Lancaster University.

Evidence of poorly designed workwear is prevalent across various emergency services and has highlighted the serious health implications of neglecting issues with personal protective equipment and clothing, particularly for women. Dr De Camargo’s doctoral thesis found that police uniforms were traditionally designed by men, for men, tailored to masculine body shapes.

In 2023, Dr De Camargo initiated ‘When the Uniform Doesn’t Fit,’ a project investigating the significant and dangerous impacts of poorly fitted police uniforms on performance, health and safety, morale, and psychosocial well-being.

“After conducting women-only focus groups in five police forces, my initial findings revealed issues with all parts of the uniform for women, especially trousers and stab vests.”

The research also highlighted short- and long-term medical implications for women, including exacerbation of disabilities, chronic health conditions, and mental health challenges. Furthermore, current standard issue uniforms are also found to be unsuitable for men, with male officers reporting physical issues due to poor fit or design.

The survey is informed by Dr De Camargo’s previous work and has received input and support from the Home Office, The Open University, UNISON, the Superintendent’s Association, and Blue Light Commercial.

The survey results will guide future national decisions on uniform design, usability, and safety for all officers and staff. Running for six weeks, the survey results will be published later this year. The Joy Welch Fund supports this survey project.