Investigating the Moral Challenges Experienced by UK Service Police Veterans

Shannon Louise Allen*, Gavin Eric Oxburgh, Matthew Donal Kiernan

*Corresponding author for this work

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Previous research has explored the negative effects of exposure to potentially morally injurious events among armed forces veterans and active-duty military personnel generally. However, this current pilot research provides a unique contribution to the extant research literature by examining the specific moral challenges experienced by a potentially at-risk and under-researched sub-group of military personnel. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 United Kingdom (UK) Service Police veterans to identify any moral challenges encountered during their military service and to investigate the experience of moral dissonance underlying these events. Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), four main themes (with sub-themes) emerged from the data: (a) violation of a moral code, (b) experience of disillusionment, (c) attempted resolution of moral dissonance, and (d) risk and protective factors for moral dissonance. Evidence of the types of moral challenges encountered by Service Police veterans during their military service and the negative consequences of moral dissonance was explored for the first time. Some of these findings overlap with existing evidence from non-Service Police research, although novel insights were also identified, such as the attempts of Service Police veterans to resolve moral dissonance through acting with moral courage, self-preservation, or seeking acceptance. The current research therefore provides a rationale for further investigation into the experience of moral dissonance and impact of exposure to morally injurious events in this sub-population of veterans. Potential implications for advancing conceptual understanding of moral injury and informing interventions to prevent the development of morally injurious outcomes are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Veteran Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2023


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