Several law enforcement organizations started taking note of their employees’ stress signs as early 1970s. Stress can have adverse implication on police officers’ job performance and their personal lives, thus also affecting those around them, for instance, family members and members of the public. Since police officers are part of the first team that responds to stressful situations, their ability to manage their conditions is vital for not only their personal significance but also the societies. According to research, it is ascertained that police officers who are not able to manage their stressful conditions exhibit maladaptive behaviors as well as personality characters, such as authoritarianism, emotional detachment, cynicisms, depersonalization, addiction to drugs, and alcohol. Furthermore, excessive stress among the law enforcing officers can lead to physiological and psychological conditions like headaches and depression respectively. The stress factor among law enforcing officers can also attribute to unwanted conduct among the officers leading to court cases. The worst effects of stress among police are suicide cases where some decide to cut short their lives using their guns. Therefore, it is important to note that police are human beings like other people who go through stressful situations in their lives, which are aggravated by the nature of their duty. There is a need for law enforcing organization to offer effective stress management interventions among the officers to help them overcome stress and carry out their roles normally. Therefore, this research discusses the issue of police stress, prevention, and management to reduce suicide cases and other effects of stress in police departments.
Managing Police Stress
The police profession is one of the most rewarding jobs but it is also stressful. In policing, service men and women in uniforms encounter different stressors that are beyond normal societal expectations. In as much as stress is an unavoidable situation, the law enforcing agencies need to come up with avenues that help control stress among police officers. Police stress emanates from both internal and external factors. Among the main causes of stress in the police officers is the requirement to adhere to specific standards of operation and policies. Moreover, most junior level police officers are stressed by their incapability to make an influence on how they are supposed to carry out their operation due to stiff command chain from the senior officers (Morash et al., 2006). This results in officers developing the feeling of unfair treatment from the police agencies. Other causes of police stress include aspects like racism, long working hours, violent treatment and encounters, fatigue, and worrying situations that they come across in their daily work. Police officers are also affected by community characteristic, which includes elements such as perception towards police, creating work difficulties and undercooking at their status. Violence is one of the main factors that are associated with stress among police officers. According to Anderson and Lo (2010), police officers’ job stress can lead to loss of control that extends to their homes, thus, making them vulnerable to violent acts.
Occurrence of Stress among Police
The police stress factors emanate from entails both the external and internal sources. External sources involve aspects, such as dangers, threats, as well as deteriorating respect among the members of the public towards the law enforcing officers. Internal stress factors are negative attitudes caused byirresponsible seniors who do not prioritize the needs of police officers. For example, they face challenges such as lack of support, too much work without rest, uncertain job specifications, and lack of proper knowledge for specific jobs assigned to police officers. According to Terpstra and Schaap (2013), a well-defined job alongside positive support from the management team enhances a good working environment. Furthermore, the home environment, criminal contacts, and foot patrols are factors that lead to police office stressors, especially for ignorant officers on duty. Educated police officers are less likely to be affected by stress factors because they have a great feeling of personal accomplishment as compared to the uneducated colleagues.
Despite the longer time police officers spend in their career services, increased stressful situations like constant exposure to threats, dangers, and other traumatic situations also have serous impacts on their lives. The longer the police officers serve in their career, the more they are affected by increased stress levels (Hassel & Brandl, 2009). Police officers are also affected by medical, physical, and mental problems in their careers as service officers and the environment they work in. This is because of the dangers they are exposed to and other environmental contributing factors like climate. Police officers’ work entails working in different shits at different times and this increases the possibility of longer working hours that deny them time for adequate sleep and rest. These factors lead to mental and medical problems among the law enforcing officers, which increase their stress.
In the course of their services, most police officers’ personnel go through extreme stimulus experiences, also referred to acute stress, due to the nature of their work. Under this experience, they are likely to undergo adverse transformations in their physical, psychological, and mental nature, making them to think and act in a strange manner as compared to other members of the public. Acute stress entails a painful verbal input or injury that can lead to undesired decision making, for instance, aimless shooting, committing errors in arrests, and other actions that are not expected of the officers. The different kinds of stress affect the law enforcing officers’ lives and professions. They are exhibited as both physical and psychological infirmities that, if not checked, lead to early deaths or permanent disability. Most police officers under intense stress also commit suicide as a way of ending the stress.
Police Suicide Statistics
Police committing suicide cases have become prevalent, most of them relating to stress factors. According to a research by Clark (2012), there are approximately 300 reported cases of police suicide cases annually. Moreover, a study by Violanti (2012) indicates that law enforcing officers are likely to doe by committing suicide as compared to homicide. This cases are devastating especially the police officers who commit suicide and leaves behind family members and other colleagues that are re also affected by the death. Suicide among law enforcing officers in itself is also another cause of stress among the remaining police officers since most of them are affected in terms of coming in terms to accept the incident. According to a research based on an investigation of 30 published studies and more data, police suicide rates were rated as per 100,00 officers. The data indicated that the United States population suicide rates is 12/100,000 and the police officers suicide rate is averagely two to three more than that of the general population (McIntosh, 2012). The problem among law enforcing officers originating from stress factors thus results into suicide cases since they become personal to individual police officers.
Characteristics of Stress Affected Law Enforcing Officers
Stressed police officers exhibit several characteristics. Kurtz (2008) states that stressed police officers in service are associated with elements, such as difficult to accept job specifications, taking part in violent arrests of the public, facing numerous internal cases and investigations, and having a bad relationship in their dealing with the public. Most of the affected police officers are likely to be those that are not supported by the administration units or family members, and they have low levels of education. With regard to gender issues, more male law enforcing officers experience increased depersonalization while their female counterparts experience increased stress. Moreover, the police officers’ subgroup representation in the force is another factor that contributes to stress. Most officers with a larger subgroup representation, for instance, sex and race experience less stress factors as compared with those who have a less representation. This is because most of them share much in common like the problems they encounter and get used to them. For example, most police officers are males due to the nature of the work. In recruitments, males are given a higher stance of joining, thus females in the force tend to feel more stressful in difficult situations as compared to men, especially considering the fact that there are no many female colleagues in the services.
The rank and the specific duty of the police officers and law enforcing agencies are also considered an experience related to stress. For instance, police officers in patrol are most likely to face stress emanating from violent situations that can lead to injury and death of their colleagues. To cope up with this issue, the colleagues undergo stressful moments in the service. Furthermore, the public may not support police operations, causing them to receive numerous public criticisms, especially detectors who feel that they are incompetent in their service (Gracia et al., 2004). Moreover, less diligent police officers in the services also face the greatest threat of stress due to their lower degree of emotional instability and less coping ability as compared to their colleagues. These police officers in most cases apply avoidance strategies in performing their duties, which are concepts commonly referred to as perceptual and cognitive responses used to manage stress. This method does not help the officers but instead build internal stress in their capacity to perform, which they cannot manage on their own. In most cases, these police officers end up contemplating on committing suicide, especially if they are not inclined to any religious sect. According to Pienaar (2004), the stress factor among police officers as a result of job demands can be association with suicide ideation with regard to an individual officer’s personality trait in coping up, such as conscientiousness, extraversion or seeking help.
There is also a relationship between police force brutality and stress factors. A research by Manzoni et al. (2006), expounded on this issue by revealing that many police officers with work stress tended to perform their work with little care and concern because of the internal factors they go through. A simple explanation is that a person with authority going through a stressful moment is likely to mishandle anyone he/she encounters. Stressed police officers experience lower job satisfaction levels and increased exhaustion, thus making them culpable of using force as a way of alleviating the discomfort.
The stress factors among police officers also affect other close associates of the law enforcing personnel, especially close family members, non- sworn officers, and other dispatchers. Longer working hours or overtime activities is a factor that results in stress among police officers. The stress also affects the family bonding where spouses and children are involved. This disrupts the continuity of family ties, causing more adverse effects to the affected parties. According to Anderson and Lo (2010), constant fights among police officers and their spouses is as a result of stress emanating from their duties, such as negative emotions and stressful occurrences. In handling critical concerns among the police force, the non-sworn personnel also face stressful criticism and are considered unfit to carry out certain functions; therefore, they are viewed as second-class employees. Nevertheless, in comparing the stress situations among the police officers and other employees in different fields, they are all affected by stress but police officers’ stress conditions are intense given the nature of their responsibilities and administration that is a command based.
Stress Management Practices
Several stress management practices should be put in place to respond to police officers’ stress. These include aspects such as the exercising programs, stress reduction programs, hidden surveys conducted to establish levels of stress among the police, mechanisms to enhance the significance and meaningfulness of the police jobs, and ensuring that the police are promoted in their services to give them encouragement and morale. Police officers also need to be treated as human beings and ensure they get enough rest in their responsibilities to reduce factors of stress.
Exercising among police officers is one of the mechanisms that need to be encouraged, as a way of managing stress (Kop & Euwema, 2001). Exercising programs among law enforcing officers are significant for the police who are experiencing emotional exhaustion and depersonalization effects, as they reduce the tension and relieve the body. Researches also encourage that police agencies need to have better management practices by putting in place strategies of communication and getting feedback from police officers that will help contain factors that lead to stress situations among police officers. The police officers also need to have specific protocols that help them address their domestic issues, such as domestic violence. They should ensure that stress does not affect their family relationships and should balance between work and family. One of the set up organizations that address police concerns is the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Model policy that should be adopted by policing agencies in dealing with police concerns to reduce stress among the force.
Furthermore, the police agencies need to incorporate organizational psychologists in the police force to assist in monitoring the police workforce conditions and reducing their stress through counseling. These experts also help in addressing some stress factors in the police force, such as biasness, and allowing officers’ opinion about their work and issues affecting them to be aired out in order to enhance their work morale (Morash et al., 2006). Police agencies also need to set up employee assistance programs for the police officers to help address their daily work activities and challenges they go through. This will be significant in establishing peer based stress debriefings in assisting the officers that are already affected by stressful incidents and providing opportunities for them to take part in expressing their feelings and frustrations in a controlled and understanding atmosphere. It is evident that police officers are able to handle stress factors that are common in any profession and carry out their duties effectively when they are given total support and counselling.
The law enforcing officers who opt to dissociate or apply avoidance strategies in dealing with stressful situations are likely to experience increased stress as well as poor psychological skills. This is contrary to the officers who address the challenges efficiently. However, achieving this requires structure management programs that help in establishing policies that will help change the police attitudes and behaviors (Aron, 2007). Policy styles among police officers also have a great influence on stress among the police. This implies that police officers with service-oriented minds are likely to experience less stress in their careers as compared with their colleagues who have a mind that policing is about fighting crime and criminal activities. In managing this situation, education programs should be provided to the police officers to encourage them view the police service as a disciplined force aimed at helping the society and not fighting it. This should also aim at encouraging the officers to further their education and cultivate a notion of striving for an accomplishment, which will see them appreciate their work as well as the community.
Police officers should be taught about ways of managing stress during the process of recruitment and training. Hiring of the police service members should be based on some background information, for instance, the ability to cope in the force and education levels, which play a significant role in controlling future stress. Close family members should be involved in police officers’ training and recruitment in order to ascertain their suitability of joining the police force and ability to deal with difficult situations. The recruitment process and training should also consider dealing with factors, such race and gender. According to Dowler (2005), African American police officers have a perception that their white counterparts believe that they are critical in the job, an aspect that can only be addressed through diversified training. Male officers also cause stress to their female counterparts in the policing, a concept that is caused by their belief of masculinity, making them reluctant every time they work with female officers. This can be managed through effective training to stop the perception. Effective racial and gender recruitment and training is significant in addressing divisions in the police force, which are stressful to some of the affected law enforcing members.
Another way of managing stress factors among the police agencies is ensuring effective working relationships between police officers and the administrative management. When junior police officers develop good holistic relationship with their seniors, there are decreased stressful level (Hasse & Bradl, 2009). The management of the police agencies, therefore, needs to break away from the traditional command relationship within the police force by encouraging increased participation by all the officers. The senior police officers should also seek to establish clear policies in supervision of their juniors in well controlled relationships that will help in reducing work place stress. Policing leaders can also help the junior law enforcing officers to alleviate stress factors by shifting policing service to community based as this will help establish a good working condition for the police. The society should not view police officers’ work as watching over them but they should regard them as helping persons who appreciate the efforts of the community in marinating law and order. This will create a positive relationship between the police and the communities by making them feel appreciated and as a result reduce stressful situations like conflict and chaos. Community participation in policing reduces the police workload in regular patrols by providing the officers with peaceful moments in their services and reducing cases of stress (Hickma et al., 2011).
Coworkers in any organization play a critical role in reducing or encouraging stress among their colleagues. In the police force, agencies’ management teams need to evaluate the personalities of all their service officers. In assigning duties and responsibilities, the agencies should avoid pairing police officers with similar personality traits. For instance, pairing two officers on patrol with similar traits like lack of enthusiasm towards work will only increase their stressful situations. A stressful officer should work with an active colleague who will motivate him/her to change the attitude and manage what is disturbing him/her. Police seniors should also not exhibit their stress to their junior employees since this will demotivate them and increase their susceptibility to further stress. Job satisfaction is key in managing job related stress, therefore, senior police officers and other employees need to ensure that they motivate their juniors and colleagues respectively in their profession to reduce stress factors (Brough & Williams, 2007).
Several factors lead to stress among members the police force. Stress occurs in all professions, but it can be intense in the police force because of the nature work, especially among the female officers. Numerous studies have indicated different characteristics of the law enforcing officers that affected by stress. Nevertheless, there are many ways of managing stress among the police, for example, implementing stress reduction program, counseling, and improving work relationships among policing agencies. Stress has adverse effects on police personnel, their families, and the community. At a personal level, stress affects police officers both physically and psychologically, leading to numerous suicidal cases and premature deaths. Stress affects any person regardless of race, gender, or sex. It is important for policing agencies to break away from the traditional way of administration and establish stress management strategies for their officers to reduce chances and effects of stress. This process will encourage peaceful policing agencies, families and society
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