Behind Blue Lights: Exploring Police Officers’ Resilience after the Terrorist Attack at Brussels Airport on March 22, 2016
Easton, Marleen
Vanessa Laureys

This case study on the terrorist attack at Brussels Airport on March 22, 2016, explores the experiences of police officers concerning (a) their coping strategies after the terrorist attack and (b) the (in)formal workplace social support that affects their resilience. A qualitative, exploratory research method was used to answer the research questions, consisting of a content analysis of the police organization, participant observation, and 31 in-depth interviews with police officers who were on active duty during the terrorist attack. This research shows that the interviewed police officers primarily adopt engagement coping strategies after the terrorist attack. The most cited one is talking to others, followed by engaging in positive action, behavioral distraction, self-evaluation, positive self-talk, and emotional numbing. Second, this study revealed that (in)formal workplace social support plays a significant role in fostering police officers’ resilience after a terrorist attack. Informally, getting acknowledged for the efforts made during the terrorist attack and for psychological loss afterward is crucial in this process. Besides, emotional support from both colleagues and supervisors is identified as essential. However, the ruling ‘macho’ culture within the police organization is perceived as hampering to talk freely about emotions. Formally, respondents place emphasis on a proper debriefing and a well-organized, easily accessible psychological aftercare. This scientific contribution provides insight into the best practices the police organization can apply to promote its employees’ resilience and performance.

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This issue of Connections. The Quarterly Journal looks into a number of issues: professional military education and its role in deepening defense capabil­ities with a special focus on the South Caucasus, the defense cooperation of the South Caucasus nations with both Russia and NATO which may result in a new form of a ‘Great Game’ rivalry... Read More