Shame Competence for Police Training

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Shame in Policing

Shame is a strong driver of behaviour and decision-making, and can have very concrete effects in interpersonal relations, especially in policing and other criminal justice contexts. There exists evidence and research that demonstrates links between shame and a number of policing relevant issues and behaviours, such as: violence and violent crime, domestic abuse, sexual violence, exploitation, terrorism and radicalization, offender decision-making, mass shootings, anti-police attitudes, gang violence, honour killings, looting and spontaneous street violence, among others. In addition, shame and shaming are frequently used as formal and informal punishments in policing, and on the other hand, police officers are frequently the recipients of shaming from politicians, the public and the media. As a result, it is obvious that police practitioners will benefit from a deeper awareness and understanding of shame, along with competence about how to recognize and manage shame dynamics.


What is Shame Competence?

Shame is a powerful force that can profoundly impact individuals, teams and organisations, often in a negative and destructive way. To address shame, which often remains unspoken and unacknowledged, and to begin to work constructively with shame, then shame competence is needed. Shame Competence is a set of skills, principles, and practices that can be learned by individuals and applied throughout an organization. The aim is to engage shame constructively in order to create more engagement, wellbeing, dignity and inclusion. Shame Competence involves practitioners having a theoretical and practical understanding of shame. Practitioners must understand what shame is, be aware of, and able to identify, behaviours that are used to cope with shame. Practitioners must also be aware of shame dynamics, how shame circulates interpersonally, and develop on-going competence in identifying their own shame and its effects on their thinking, actions and behaviour within professional practice.


What can a Shame Competent Professional Do?

Recognise shame in themselves and in others; Understand common shame defenses and recognise hidden shame; Respond appropriately to shame and manage shame dynamics for positive outcomes; Recognise shaming and avoid using shaming; Understand how shame shows up in organisations; create psychological safety; enact trauma-informed practice.


Shame Competence for Police

Within policing, along with other human services, understanding shame, and its impacts and effects, has, to date, not be an explicit focus of training or practice. Professor Luna Dolezal worked in collaboration with the Devon & Cornwall Police to develop this innovative and evidence-based Shame Competence for Police training package. The aim of the shame competence training is to enable individuals and organizations to begin to create and systematise nuanced and collaborative understandings of how shame is produced and experienced as a result of particular interactions, experiences, policies and practice, enhancing organizational and individual emotional intelligence, in order to understand the impacts and effects of shame within professional practice.

The Shame Competence for Police training package is currently delivered in-person over the course of 1 day, with a maximum of 30 participants per training session.

Topics covered in the training are:

Some feedback from participants:

If you would like to find out more about how to book a training session, or to hear about costings, please contact Dr James Woodhams:

This training is trusted by:


Luna worked with Haley Peckham (Facilitator and Training Developer), Meg-John Barker (Creative Consultant), Devon & Cornwall Police, the wider Police Feedback Network and the Trauma-Informed Plymouth Network to develop and pilot the training in 2022.

The development of the training is funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and Devon & Cornwall Police Serious Violence Prevention Programme, and the Open Innovation Platform Funding, University of Exeter (2022).

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