How Police Effectively Cope with Stress Stemming from Work

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Brandon J. Siebert
CJUS 491 Final Research Paper
How Police Effectively Cope With Stress Stemming From Work
Dr. Gary Keveles

Police work is unique and unlike most other professions. Law enforcement personnel are subject to encounter many different experiences, situations where physical danger, injury and even death are situations that are commonly seen by law enforcement in the field. On top of all of these potential stressors are certain organizational stressors. Some of these could include negative public perception and pressures from departmental officials. All of these combined stressors can lead to suicide, divorce and family discord.

The significance of the problems presented by police stressors bring about some very important issues that need to be addressed. Since officers are held to a greater responsibility in society, officers that cannot cope with work stressors effectively pose a great threat to themselves, to co-workers and to the public. (Webb and Smith, 1980 Pg. 2) This failure to cope with stressors effectively has resulted in increased rates of heart disease, stomach disorders, divorce, alcohol and drug abuse and suicide compared to other professions. (Anshel 2000, Pg. 376) Overall police officers may be at an increased risk for negative psychological outcomes because of an increased likelihood of using disassociation as a defense against the effects of the stress that their job presents. (Aaron 2000, Pg. 439) This disassociation is an ineffective strategy. (Aaron 2000, Pg. 439)

In this research article a number of coping strategies will be discussed. These strategies are placed into four main categories and will be looked at as independent variables. These independent variables include; problem focused coping, emotional focused coping, religiosity and rugged individualism. All of these independent variables are found to be ways of coping with stress; this article will focus on which one, or the combination of, is the most effective.

Within this article there are a few reoccurring terms that need to be defined so that the consistency remains the same throughout. The first term that is frequently used is the term coping, within this article coping will be seen as to deal with difficulties and the ability to overcome them. Another major term that will be seen throughout this article is the word stress. Stress will be defined as pressure physically or mentally, tension or strain.

Literature Review

Independent Variables

Problem-Focused Coping
Problem-focused coping of stress is the activities targeted at managing and improving the stressful situation or stress-or. Activities like making a plan of action and following it, trying to figure out what needs to change and do it are both good examples of problem-focused coping strategies. Problem-focused coping is a preferred method to coping with stress when a number of criteria are met. (Anshel 2000, Pg. 388) These criteria are a.) The situation is controllable, b.) The source of the stress is known to the person, c.) The source of the stress is open to discussion, d.) The individual possesses good communication skills, e.) There is an adequate amount of time to resolve or address the problem, f.) The failure to resolve the issue may result in a dangerous outcome, g.) Action is required, h.) The individual has a high self-confidence. (Anshel 2000, Pg. 388) Activities that are also used to combat stress could even be certain preventative measures. Training and education programs aimed at reducing stress are two types that could be effective. (Webb and Smith 1980, Pg. 3) Training and education in the area of coping with stress can give law enforcement the tools to effectively cope if they do not have the skills already. Another preventative tool that could be used is the selective process for hiring that the police department will use. There is a wide belief that through better and more discriminating selection criteria it would be possible...
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