Police Employee Assistance Programs

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Police Employee Assistance Programs

Policing is shown to be one of the most stressful careers around the world both past and present. (Louw & Viviers, 2010). Police stress can be defined as any reaction to any routine or non-routine event occurring throughout the workday. Police experience more stress than most other professions. Experiences, such as officer shootings that lead to death or serious injury, witnessing death, personally shooting an individual, responding to shootings in schools or homes, and so on can cause extreme stress and psychological harm if it is not handled in a healthy or professional manner (Becker, Meyer, Price, Graham, Arsena, Armstrong & Ramon, 2009). Police Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) emerged in the 1950s and were originally used for police professionals who struggled with alcohol abuse (Goldstein, 2006). Even today, research has shown that 20% of police officers abuse alcohol (Dowling, Moynihan, Genet & Lewis, 2006). About twenty years later, the programs were expanded and provided for individuals seeking help with other problems they may have (Goldstein, 2006). For example, many police officers experience problems within their own families because day-to-day stress at work carries over into their personal lives. A combination of excessive alcohol use and stress created through traumatic events can be blamed for aggressive or violent personalities and abuse in their homes (Dowling, Moynihan, Genet & Lewis, 2006). Studies have found that officers with strong personalities are more likely ask for help and because of this, tend to me more content in their career (Carlan & Nored, 2008). Other officers are less likely to ask for help because it reflects signs of weakness or will have a negative impact on the trust colleagues have placed on them. In fact, the suicide rate is 1.5 times higher for police officers than it is for non-police because of the perceived stigmatization that piggybacks counseling (Dowling, Moynihan, Genet & Lewis, 2006). There are two general models of employee assistance: internal and external. Internal assistance is created within the agency while external assistance is support arranged outside the department. Some officers have a hard time using internal EAP because they do not want to show weakness to someone above them in their own organization or they simply do not trust them. It has also been argued that internal assistance allows multiple officers experiencing difficulty from the same event can rely on each other to gain support. When EAP expanded beyond alcohol abuse support, researchers realized that peer support is at times more effective than one on one services because it gives the troubled officer a chance to let out their feelings and just talk (Goldstein, 2006). Peer Support Groups

In regards to peer support, a study was done after the September 11 terrorist attacks to help provide evidence that these tactics do, in fact, work. Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance (POPPA) is an organization that has worked with the New York Police Department (NYPD) since 1996. They use more than 100 trained peer support volunteers to be available 24/7 for officers who just need someone to talk to about anything. If the volunteer feels that the officer needs more than peer support, he/she can refer them to a professional specialist (Dowling, Moynihan, Genet & Lewis, 2006). After 9/11, the volunteers went out and helped inform – verbally and on written paper - all NYPD officers signs of trauma based issues that could occur. The volunteers then met with officers individually to assess them on a more personal level while also recording information about their demographics and mental state during the conversation (Dowling, Moynihan, Genet & Lewis, 2006). Out of the estimated 39,000 contact sheets handed out, 28,232 sheets were completed by 2003. About 34% of officers felt at least one behavioral change, 1/2 felt at least...
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