Police Stressors

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Abstract

This research has shown several main stressors that police officers face daily. These stressors are common and include work related as well as personal issues. When faced with multiple stressors and left untreated stressors can cause mild to serious effects on the officer’s health, well being, personal life and performance. There are different ways today that management can help officers effectively deal with the stresses that they encounter and procedures that should be enacted to ensure the officers have the resources to get help when needed. Today there are training programs intended to help management learn about the various stressors, different methods of treatment and what signs to watch for. Management plays a vital role in helping the officers understand that nothing is hopeless and that there is always help available.

Police Stressors: Causes, Effects and Treatments

Everyone deals with a certain amount of stress from his or her career and personal lives. Police officers are no different and in fact, they have some of the highest stress levels. The causes of stress vary from officer to officer as well as the symptoms that the stress and anxiety cause. Many stressors can be mild and go unnoticed and are therefore left untreated, while others are severe. Facing severe symptoms, the officers may not know how to go about getting help or they feel embarrassed and do not seek help. How the officers and management deal with this stress is important to the officer’s safety as well as those around him. There is not one way to deal with these situations and the levels vary for each individual.

Joseph Harpold and Samuel Feemster wrote an article in the Federal Bureau of Investigation Law Enforcement Bulletin that says:

What is stress? One researcher defined stress as "a nonspecific response of the body to any demand placed on it." What does that really mean? It simply means that each person responds differently to internal and external demands of life, but that each person does experience stress. Denying its existence does not alleviate the body's response to daily stress (Harpold and Feemster February). The day-to-day stress of dealing with people and their problems, especially the deeply disturbing aspects of dealing with critical incidents, can traumatize officers and poison their spirits. Friederich Nietzsche said, "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And, when you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." (Central Florida Police Stress Unit Main Page 2008) This aptly applies to the law enforcement profession because officers look into the abyss of evil and negative behavior every day (Harpold and Feemster February)

Every professional has stressors that they encounter; an officer’s stressors are not different. The difference is that an officer has to cope with many stressors combined. Some of these stressors include marital discord, trouble with a fellow officer, posttraumatic stress disorder, injuries, communication difficulties, bad attitudes and lose of faith in the criminal justice system (Collins, 2003). The five most common sources of stress for individual officers are issues in the officer's personal life, the pressures of law enforcement work, the attitude of the general public toward police work and officers, the operation of the criminal justice system, and the law enforcement organization itself (Finn August).

What are some of the main causes of stress police officers are faced with? To begin my research I asked this question to a retired local police chief. The first thing he said was the internal structure. The second item to come up was communication. Mr. Adamy explained that rookies come into the force and they do not know what they are getting into yet. They go to briefing meetings in which case is not always a pleasant experience. This sets their mood for their shift. If the...
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