Stress and Law Enforcement

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Management and Dealing with Stress in Officers

It is important that law enforcement officers are able to handle stress and build his or her zone of stability. Officers have a ready-made support system in each other. They better understand the special problems and feelings that come with the job that friends and family members don't. That doesn't necessarily mean that this relationship with their fellow officers will cure all. Sometimes, because of the "macho" image that police officers uphold, they will give back negative feedback in a situation where an officer needs comfort. For example, an officer shoots someone in the line of duty and is having an emotional struggle with it, and a fellow officer (who thinks he is supporting that officer) makes a comment like, "Good job, that dirt bag deserves it." In a situation like that, a fellow officer feels worse and more stressed. It is very important for management, whether police or correctional, to make sure that they can properly help out their officers when needed. There are many things that happen on the streets and in prison that can severely effect an officer. It is only with a good management system and staff that officers will have the proper support to move on.

A major stressor is when a law enforcement officer must deal with death. No one is mentally or emotionally prepared to deal with death. When a law enforcement officer has to notify the next of kin, they must pass through stages of notification. The first stage is to prepare by creating a self-protecting sense of social distance for the officer. An experienced officer will be more concerned with containing the emotions of the recipient rather than their concern for how they will cope. The next stage is the delivery. It only takes a few seconds to deliver the news, and the officer will use their badge, uniform, and the formality of the delivery as a way to protect him/herself from this personal situation (Looney & Windsor 1982)....
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