Module 7; Assignment 2: Review Paper – Power Point Presentation
Law enforcement personnel (or peace officers) are persons who have attended a Peace Officer Standard Training (POST) certified basic academy and graduated successfully with their POST certificate. Peace officers can include Police Officers, Deputy Sheriffs, (California) Highway Patrol, state/federal Marshal, State Park Ranger, District Attorney Investigator, FBI Agent, ATF agent, Department of Justice agent, CIA agent, etc. Law enforcement plays the “enforcement” role of the criminal justice system and is responsible for minimizing the criminal and deviant acts within society. Unfortunately, in order to minimize the most horrible and negative aspects of our society (crime and deviancy), law enforcement personnel must subject themselves directly to these events; physically and emotionally.
). In 1988, 78 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty and since then, hundreds of others been killed, exposed to a life threatening situation, witnessed traumatic events, or have had “near misses” in dangerous situations (Mann & Neece, 1990). Page (2010) describes that, “on any shift, police officers may be expected to shoot someone, be shot at, see a partner killed, use force to resist a physical attack, rescue a battered child, participate in a high-speed chase, and inform a parent that his or her child has been killed in a traffic accident.” Every person who signs up to be a peace officer is also signing up for a life-time of stress and negative psychological effects that occur as a result of being exposed to these traumatizing events day after day. Ramos (2010) notes that the nature of police work is inherently negative and the bulk of service calls are geared at taking care of others.
Therefore, operating in an environment that frequently exposes officers to high levels of frustration and danger can often lead to physical, emotional and psychological wear (Ramos, 2010). Chopko and Schwartz (2009) state that, officers are “especially vulnerable to both direct and vicarious traumatic events, because they must not only confront illegal and sometimes violent behaviors but they must also assist other first responders (e.g., fire fighters and paramedics) when they are called to duty.”
The duties of law enforcement involve a responsibility by each officer to dive head first into the most troubling and painful realities of our communities. Unfortunately, what we see, feel, do and experience on the job can cause not only physical pain and stress but also emotional distress and a variety of unhealthy medical and psychological problems. Research has shown that gender and race can be an important variable in predicting an officer’s outcome post trauma exposure (Shaffer, 2010; Page, 2010). Although every person reacts differently to what they see or experience on the job and the duration and intensity of the reaction can also vary drastically from person to person; indeed, every person in law enforcement is negatively effected by the job related stressors in some way.
It is important to tend to the physical, emotional, and psychological health of the law enforcement officers for multiple reasons. An officer’s physical, emotional, social and psychological health is a critical component in the officer’s ability to effectively live their life. Tanigoshi, Kontos, and Remley Jr. (2008) discuss that, officer wellness is a particularly important topic to address within the counseling profession, given the high occurrence of lifestyle-related diseases and disorders that lead to an officer’s likelihood of premature morbidity and mortality.
An officer can be negatively affected socially within their personal lives, relationships and at work.
Traumatic and/or disturbing events that officers encounter within their daily duties can lead to significant levels of stress, as well as emotional difficulties within officers. Additionally, officers may experience shock, disbelief, dread, anguish, anger and a pressing motivation to take action in response to the critical event (Shaffer, 2010).
Research has shown that, as a “result of such cognitive distortions, emergency care workers may also become self-destructive and predisposed to increased violence and antisocial behavior (Shaffer, 2010).” Chopko and Schwartz (2009) also estimate that 12-35% of police officers may meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD at any given point. Shaffer (2010) notes that, “cognitive symptoms may cause an officer to have difficulty recalling information, lack the ability to maintain focus and concentration, have reduced capacity for problem solving, and less effective communication skills; all of which are important components of being effective in law enforcement. If an officer’s work related stress is not managed properly, studies have shown that it can cause them to become prone to depression, alcoholism, anxiety disorders and burnout; all of which may increase their risk for committing suicide (Ramos, 2010).
There have also been job related physical differences between men and women. The long-term study of 400 officers by Buffalo University concluded that approximately 72 % of female officers and approximately 43% of male officers have high cholesterol levels (Page, 2010). The BCOP study also revealed that female officers working the day shift had an increased amount of suicidal thoughts, whereas men had increased suicidal thoughts during swing and graveyard shifts (Page, 2010). Overall, approximately 23% of male officers and 25% of female officers reported having twice as many suicidal thoughts on a daily basis then the average person (Page, 2010). There are also interesting differences in race when it comes to stress. During a study of the correlation between stress, race and gender, both white and African-American women were reported to have higher levels of stress than white men, however for unknown reasons; African-American men showed much lower levels of stress than white men (Page, 2010). Although African-American men appear to experience lower levels of stress overall, they do tend to exhibit higher levels of burn out then white men (Page, 2010).
The Job Effects Officers in many Ways Personally Law enforcement duties can cause significant problems within the lives of officers that are varying in effect. Problems that an officer may have as a result of exposure to a critical incident or disaster in the line of duty can range from, “those that are transient and self-correcting to those that are &quot;longer-term, incapacitating, and meet the criteria for a psychological or psychiatric disorder&quot; (Shaffer, 2010). Additionally, Shaffer (2010) states that, “officers, may experience disapproving and unfounded thoughts about their performance in responding to the critical incident and may even entertain the irrational thought that they are somehow responsible for the incident or resulting destruction.” An officer’s inability to control a situation completely or save every person can have a lasting effect. In fact, research has shown that a person in an emergency response profession has a 16% to 22.2% chance of developing PTSD over the span of their career (Shaffer, 2010). Officers may be reluctant to experience or feel the heavy emotions that come as a result of witnessing a traumatic event and repressing those emotions may lead to depression, anxiety, frustration and isolation (Shaffer, 2010). Too many times the emotions, depression, guilt, shame, etc. that an officer may experience as a result of job related stressors can lead to a fatal ending. The FBI’s handbook by Ramos (2010) on police suicide states that, “tragically, too many times suicide becomes the way officers deal with the horrors they have witnessed in the daily performance of their duties, along with internal stressors from their departments and external problems in their personal lives.” Ramos (2010) explains that officers that also experience relationship problems, “coupled with alcohol abuse and the accessibility of a firearm, create a recipe for disaster among troubled officers who may view suicide as the only way out (Ramos, 2010). Professionally The health and mental and emotional state of law enforcement officers can effect the officer’s ability to do their job effectively, keep their partners safe, and the overall performance and liability of the specific agency. Police officers are at great risk for the development of posttrauma problems that can have an impact on their careers (Shaffer, 2010). Also disturbing is that the personal stress that officers may experience as a result of their duties, ultimately effects the safety of every one around them in their job. Shaffer (2010) appropriately describes that, “emotional conflicts and feelings of anger, hatred, and intense apprehension reduce emergency care workers&apos; ability to respond effectively, even as they often put their personal safety in jeopardy and ignore personal risk while attempting to help victims (Shaffer, 2010).” Socially The health and mental and emotional states of law enforcement officers is a critical factor in the officer’s ability to carryout their job related functions within the community and can drastically effect the wellbeing of society as a whole. Job related stress can play a huge role in not only an officer’s life and well-being but also the overall well-being of the community that the individual serves.
Officers that lack significant relationships and social support in their lives during a severe disaster or traumatic event may look to community and social support systems already in existence in their lives; whether good or bad (Shaffer, 2010). This can result in negatively effecting or hindering the emotional recovery of an emergency care worker (Shaffer, 2010). Page (2010) also notes that research has shown that family support tends to mitigate the negative effects of stress and burnout within an officer, greater than any administrative support can provide. In addition, the therapeutic healing that is greatly needed from PTSD is increased when an officer has the skills needed to maintain a circle of support (Shaffer, 2010). Thus, family, friends and loved ones are of extreme importance and value to a law enforcement officer. Interesting enough, research has shown that men are less skilled in requesting support from their spouses or family, however “women actually have the ability to modify how they present their emotions to others in such a way that helps them receive the emotional support they need (Shaffer, 2010).”
In addition, Shaffer (2010) suggests that it may prove beneficial to utilize Erikson’s developmental stages within counseling sessions when addressing trauma within emergency care workers. Studies have also indicated that effective “cop” counselors, “operate from a wellness model and will be well-advised to consider how trauma on the job can have an impact on typical development and use strategies that help steer troubled emergency care workers onto a healthier, meaningful path to wellness (Shaffer, 2010).” In regards to therapy aimed at post-traumatic stress disorder, Chopko and Schwartz (2009) describe that, &quot;the key element across several successful PTSD treatment approaches involves prescribing the direct opposite of avoidance and escape of trauma related internal and external cues.”
The results in Norvelle and Belles’ (1993) findings suggest that circuit weight training programs may prove to be of significant psychological benefit to officers.
Tanigoshi, Kontos, and Remley Jr. (2008) also state that, “issues of wellness, adaptive coping responses, health promotion, and disease prevention are significant health-related areas to address within the profession of law enforcement given that police work is considered to be one of the most stressful and health-threatening occupations. An officer’s physical, emotional, social, and psychological health is a critical component in the officer’s ability to effectively do their job and to protect and serve the community. Therefore, society, law enforcement agencies, and the individual officer’s themselves need to be educated on the importance of the officer’s emotional and psychological health. Whether this occur through federally funded grants that educate and regulate law enforcement agencies on officer wellness and job related stressors or by hand delivering brochures to local agencies at roll call. With great concern for the health of working law enforcement personnel within our communities, as well as the welfare and safety of our communities, I feel it necessary to address the negative effects that the stressors experienced within the career of law enforcement can have; not only on an individual, but on their families, friends, co-workers, employers, and the people they are sworn to protect.
With Duty Comes Hardship:
The Effects of Job Related Stress
on Law Enforcement Personnel
Kelsey B. Gillingham
October 23, 2010
PSY492: Advanced General Psychology
Instructor: Mary Viventi
This paper reviews research and various reports in literature concerning
the job related stressors that law enforcement personnel encounter on a
daily basis. It focuses primarily on specific physical, emotional,
psychological and social problems that result from job related stressors
encountered within law enforcement. It takes into consideration gender
differences and methods in reducing stress that incorporate the inclusion
of intimate relationship, counseling, and exercise. It explores current gaps
in research and literature that address the specific job related stressor,
which events or incidents are most likely to cause significant stress within
an officer; as well as variations in culture, religion, and race. Job related
stress can play a huge role not only in the individual officer’s life and well
being but also in the overall well-being of the community that the individual
serves. This paper examines the ways in which job related stress
negatively effects law enforcement personnel and why such factors are
Today’s modern world is saturated with unfortunate and horrific
acts of violence, terrorism, abuse, sexual assaults, child neglect,
kidnapping, torture and tragic deaths.
It is the awful truth that people in our world frequently kill,
murder, torture, rape, molest, sodomize, shoot, stab, rob,
burglarize, trick, deceive, neglect, and steal from each other; as a
means of enjoyment, self fulfillment, greed, lust, ignorance and
Crime would take over our world completely if it were not for
the efforts of law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
In close comparison to the military; law enforcement is currently
considered to be one of the most dangerous, stressful and health-
threatening occupations (Tanigoshi, Kontos, and Remley Jr, 2008).
“Policing is psychologically stressful work, filled with danger, high
demands, human misery and exposure to death (Page, 2010).”
(After Collapse of Worlds Trade Center)
These job related stressors
within law enforcement have
a negative effect on officers
and cause significant physical,
emotional, social and
psychological problems that
can negatively impact their
life and their ability to
perform their job effectively.
* Research has shown that the stressors
related to law enforcement can lead to
physical and psychosomatic conditions;
such as ulcers and headaches, as well as
negative psychological states such as
burnout, depression, anger and
frustration (Burke, 1998).
* Research has also shown a link
between job related stress in officers
and burnout, negative attitudes towards
people, life, and work, as well as
coronary heart disease, hypertension,
and ulcers (Li-Ping Tang and
* Research has shown that the
stressors encountered within law
enforcement can lead to a
deteriorating work performance
known as absenteeism (Burke,
1998). Li-Ping Tang and
Hammontree (1992) report that
approximately 70 percent of all
work related absenteeism is linked
to stress-related illnesses.
* Often times, officers may feel torn
between their commitment to their
professional duties and their
responsibility and loyalty to their
families (Shaffer, 2010).
* First responders (such as law
enforcement officers) to incidents
involving “destruction to physical
property, violence, or death
commonly experience high levels
of trauma-related stress, a
circumstance that often results in
associated emotional suffering and
social problems (Chopko &
* Mann and Neece (1990) state that,
many officers exposed to such job
related stressors develop Post-
Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
and similar stress-related problems.
• Research has shown that the stressors
encountered within law enforcement
can lead to negative psychological
states that include depression, anger,
frustration and burnout (Burke, 1998).
• Research has shown that, as a “result of
such cognitive distortions, emergency
care workers may also become self-
destructive and predisposed to
increased violence and antisocial
behavior (Shaffer, 2010).”
• If an officer’s work related stress is not
managed properly, studies have shown
that it can cause them to become prone
to depression, alcoholism, anxiety
disorders and burnout; all of which may
increase their risk for committing
suicide (Ramos, 2010).
Differences in Gender
A study on the effects of job related
stress in law enforcement and fire
fighters determined that gender may in
fact influence the development of an
officer’s psychopathology after a
traumatic event has occurred (Shaffer, 2010).
Women experience a higher rate of
anxiety, depression and somatic
complaints as a result to trauma
exposure, whereas men are reported to
have a higher incidence of alcohol and
drug abuse as a result (Shaffer, 2010).
women have twice the rate of PTSD
that men have after witnessing or
experiencing a critical incident and
they are more vulnerable to developing
it, because they perceive that their lives
are more stressful than those of men
Differences in Race
The correlation between stress, race and
gender, both white and African-American
women were reported to have higher
levels of stress than white men, however
for unknown reasons; African-American
men showed much lower levels of stress
than white men (Page, 2010).
Although African-American men appear
to experience lower levels of stress
overall, they do tend to exhibit higher
levels of burn out then white men (Page,
Problems that an officer may have as a result of
exposure to a critical incident or disaster in the line
of duty can range from, “those that are transient and
self-correcting to those that are "longer-term,
incapacitating, and meet the criteria for a
psychological or psychiatric disorder" (Shaffer,
The health and mental and emotional state of law
enforcement officers can effect the officer’s ability
to do their job effectively, keep their partners safe,
and the overall performance and liability of the
Shaffer (2010) appropriately describes that,
“emotional conflicts and feelings of anger, hatred,
and intense apprehension reduce emergency care
workers' ability to respond effectively, even as they
often put their personal safety in jeopardy and ignore
personal risk while attempting to help victims
(After Collapse of Worlds Trade Center)
More Lasting Effects
The health and mental and emotional states of law enforcement officers is a
critical factor in the officer’s ability to carryout their job related functions
within the community and can drastically effect the wellbeing of society as a
Job related stress can play a huge role in not only an officer’s life and well-
being but also the overall well-being of the community that the individual
Reducing Stress with Relationships
Support from loved ones, family,
friends, co-workers or an intimate
partner can greatly effect the
amount of impact that job related
stressors have on an officer
Studies have shown that
involvement in a significant
emotional relationship may
influence the degree to which one
receives effective emotional
support, which may lessen
symptoms of stress and depression,
regardless of gender (Shaffer,
Reducing Stress with Counseling/DebriefingReducing Stress with Counseling/Debriefing
“An important consideration for
counselors working with
emergency care workers is that, in
order to be successful at their
career, emergency care workers
may often shut down their emotions
Debriefing can be used as a means
of addressing the event from a
“tactical” stand point, where their
actions are explained and then their
feelings regarding their actions and
the overall result of the incident.
Reducing Stress with Exercise
Research has shown that officers
who participate regularly in circuit
weight-training have a significant
increase in strength on
cardiovascular fitness, as well as
significant improvements in mood,
decreases in somatization, anxiety,
depression, and hostility (Norvelle
& Bells, 1993).
Additionally, officers who
participated in the circuit weight
training also had a decrease in
reports of physical symptoms and
improvements in their overall job
satisfaction (Norvelle & Belles,
To Sum it Up…
An officer’s physical, emotional, social, and psychological health
is a critical component in the officer’s ability to effectively do
their job and to protect and serve the community.
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Norvelle, N. and Belles, D. (1993). Psychological and Physical Benefits of Circuit
Weight Training in Law Enforcement Personnel. American Psychological Association.
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2010, Vol. 37(2). 26-32.
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