Police and Stress in a Police Officer Thesis

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Police Stress

Preventing Police Officer Stress

The stresses that police officers face as a part of their daily job often make it difficult to maintain a normal life. Police officers are more likely to experience divorce or be the perpetrators of domestic violence than the public. In addition, they also have a significantly higher suicide rate than the public. Police officers experiencing incredible strain on the job are a serious problem for administrators and managers. Often, the stress that a police officer experiences are beyond anyone's control. They must cope with the situation that they are dealt. This research concludes that administrators and managers must play an active role in reducing stress of the officers under their charger. It explores positive steps that can be taken to reduce officer stress and prevent many of the consequences of this stress.

Preventing Police Officer Stress


No one will argue that the job of a police officer is one of the most stressful of any occupation. Dedicated police officers place their lives on the line to defend and protect citizens that they do not even know. They work long hours, face hazards to life and limbs, and often for little pay as compared to other professions. Police officers face an incredible amount of stress in their daily lives. Police stress is a major leading cause of suicide, divorce, and domestic violence among police officers. The purpose of this study will be to explore figures regarding the affects of police officer stress and to examine what agencies are doing to prevent these issues.

Police Stress

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Thesis on Police and Stress in a Police Officer Assignment

Stress among police officers stems from multiple sources. Not only are they stressed by their normal job duties Racial, gender bias, and a lack of influence over their work activities have been identified as key factors in police stress (Morash, Haarr, & Kwak, 2006). Other conditions, such has high crime rate communities, the size of the community, and token status within the police organization are also contributing factors to this stress (Morash, Haarr, & Kwak, 2006). Police officers often receive little support from their families and co-workers (Morash, Haarr, & Kwak, 2006). These conditions were found to be highly predictive in terms of stress among police officers.

The degree of stress associated with being a police officer contributes to many social problems among officers. Although studies differ slightly, it is accepted that police officers are more likely to experience divorce, alcoholism, domestic violence, and suicide than the average citizen. Depending on the study, the divorce rate among police officers is 60-70% higher than the national average (Police Dynamics Institute, Inc., 2006). The alcoholism rate is twice that of the national average and the domestic violence rate is highest of all professions (Police Dynamics Institute, Inc., 2006). Police officers are 3 times higher than the national average to commit suicide (Police Dynamics Institute, Inc., 2006). These statistics are ironic, considering that many times their job entails responding to calls about the very same things.

Suicide Rate and Causes of Suicide Among Officers

Police Officer suicide is a topic that is often ignored in law enforcement circles. Acknowledgment that police officers commit suicide as a result of stresses on the job is often ignored. It would be considered poor public policy to release such information that might undermine public trust in the ability of officers to perform their duties. However, it is even a greater atrocity to ignore the issue.

One of the key stressors found to affect police officers in a serious manner is when a perpetrator uses them as a means to commit their own suicide (Brown, 2003). When an officer is used as the means to assist another in their own suicide, it can lead to the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Police officers are expected to put on an air of "being OK" even after an event that harms them deeply (Brown, 2003). However, many times after a traumatic incident on the job they are no OK, they are seriously mentally compromised. Yet, they face stigma if they admit their problems and seek help (Brown, 2003).

Suicide among police officers occurs for the same reason that it occurs in anyone else. When the pain exceeds the person's coping resources, they are in danger of committing suicide (Metanoia.org, 2006). One differences between police stress and the stress of others is that police stress is chronic. Another thing that makes it different is that is not always so obvious. Police officers are expected to be able to handle situations on a daily basis that would be considered a traumatic event for the average citizen. Every time they make a traffic stop or confront someone, they run the risk of injury or death.

It might be noted that not all research agrees that suicide rates are higher among police officers. Several studies indicate that these conclusions were based on biased samples and that they cannot be considered conclusive (Curran, 2003). One study by Aamodt & Stalmaker found that police officers are 26% less likely to commit suicide than the general public (Curran, 2003). Although, conflicting statistical evidence exists regarding suicide rates, as compared to the national average, this still does not minimize suicide as a serious consequence of stress among officers.

Divorce Rate and Domestic Violence Among Officers

The stresses that are placed on the police officer do not end when the police officer goes home. Often stresses on the job bleed over into the family after the officer is off duty. Bringing these stresses home can place a strain on relationships. Personal problems and job problems often cannot be distinguished for the police officer. Surveys that investigated the opinions of long-term officers found that there is a general belief that divorce rates are high among officers. However, just as with suicide statistics, there are some that claim no significant increase, as compared to the rest of the population (Curran, 2003). Comparative statistics are lacking in this areas, but it does not minimize the need to address the issue. Perceptions of divorce rates among police officers were exaggerated among police officers that had experienced a divorce themselves (Curran, 2003).

Domestic Violence is a crime in the United States. Domestic violence occurs as tensions build, with no means of relief. Once an officer has been charged with domestic violence, in many states, the officer must immediately surrender their firearm (Sliwinski, 2009). They are immediately stripped of many of the privileges that make them an effective officer. When a police officer is charged with domestic violence, it is a serious offense. Those that are supposed to protect others from this type of crime have now become the criminals themselves. From this standpoint, the issue of domestic violence is different from any of the other stress related issues presented in this research.

Prevention of Stress among Officers

Police officers may feel stigmatized if they have emotional problems following a traumatic incident. They may not seek the help that they need, but decide to try to deal with the problems themselves (Brown, 2003). This is one area where administrators could help to alleviate a major cause of anxiety in police officers. They could provide a variety of anonymous services that would allow the officer to seek help without risking their colleagues and superiors finding out about it. They need a channel where they do not feel stigmatized by their family, fellow officers, the community, or superiors. They may feel that traditional channels of seeking help may place them at risk of being viewed as not able to handle their job. This is a key issue in treating stress among police officers and one area where administration and management could make a major impact on the mental health of their officers.

Debriefings after a critical incident are the most common forms of preventing stress related reactions. However, research indicates that these methods are hardly effective for reducing the impact of long-term stress in police officers (Curran, 2003). Group intervention itself has been associated with producing some serious long-term side effects, including PTSD, as the police officer must relive the event, without personalized help and support (Curran, 2003). Yet this intervention remains the most common intervention for first responders (Curran, 2003).

Education and training have been demonstrated to be the most effective techniques for reduction of stress on the job (Curran, 2003). Training and education need to continue throughout the career of the officer, making the most recent information available to the officers. Knowing what to expect in the aftermath of a situation is a strong deterrent to the development of negative consequences as a result.

Suicide, divorce, domestic violence and alcoholism are all problems associated with stress. These issues make it difficult for the police officer to perform the duties of their job. These problems not only pose problems for the officers: they pose a serous threat to the public as well. Prevention of stress, or at least providing the officer with better coping mechanisms is the key to preventing… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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