TheCauses of Stress Among Law Enforcement Personnel and the Impact of Stress onProfessional Performance NameAcademicInstitution AuthorNote ClassProfessorDate Introduction It is well-known and widely recognized that lawenforcement is an extraordinarily stressful occupation. Clearly, there are arange of fairly obvious reasons why this is the case. The first and mostimportant reason is the constant prospect of danger.
While it is true thatthere are many other occupations that include a similar level of danger to thatof law enforcement, it is also true that law enforcement professionals mustpursue their vocations with the constant threat of potential danger (Bell &Eski, 2014). The mere presence of this threatpotentially leads to a very high level of stress. However, danger issues aside,there are many other aspects of the law enforcement profession that lead to theaccumulation of a high volume of stress. One of these involves the ongoingpresence of stressful situations that law enforcement professionals areconfronted with. Another involves the fact that law enforcement professionalare often overworked, and face constant scrutiny of their actions with regardto possible citizen complaints of excessive use of force or reprimand fromsuperiors. It is necessary to not only determine the major contributing factorsto the stress that is experienced by law enforcement personnel, but also toidentify the ways in which this stress may impact professional performance,along with ways of effectively managing stress (Abdollahi, 2002).ThePotential Threat of Violence Faced by Law Enforcement Personnel The first cause stress that police officers face isobviously the threat of potential violence.
Certainly, law enforcement work ismore dangerous than many other occupations. However, it is also true that thedangers of police work are sometimes overstated. There are a range of lawenforcement occupations that do not involve direct interaction with criminalsuspects in a way that could potentially lead to violence. For example, somelaw enforcement personnel work in administration, forensics, informationtechnology, and other aspects of the profession that are unlikely to lead topotentially violent situations. Additionally, many patrol officers go throughtheir time in the field without ever experiencing a life-threatening situation.Some police officers with years of experience will say that they have rarelyhad to pull a gun on a suspect. Others will say that any physicalconfrontations with suspects have been limited to fisticuffs.
In this regard,police work is no more dangerous than being a bouncer in a bar or a securityguard (Karaffa & Koch, 2016). Also,statistical compilations of the causes of the deaths of police officers killedin the line of duty often indicate that traffic accidents are just as likely tobe a cause of death as armed confrontation with suspects. Given the fact thatpatrol officers spend a great deal of time behind the wheel of a vehicle, it islikely to be true that police personnel would experience a high rate of trafficaccidents. Indeed, a comparison of the rates of deaths on the job among membersof different professions indicates that many other occupations, such asconstruction or driving trucks, are just as dangerous as police work.Therefore, the potential dangers that police officers face on the job shouldnot be exaggerated or overstated. However, it is certainly true that policework can be very dangerous at times. The threat of danger is particularly presentin situations where police officers are working undercover, or where policeofficers are involved with specialized forms of police work such as membershipon the SWAT team or participating in raids on the headquarters of members oforganized crime, drug traffickers, gangs, and other criminal suspects that areknown to have a high propensity towards the use of violence (Zhao, He &Lovrich, 2002). It is certainly true thatthere are a range of situations that a law enforcement professional canpotentially be confronted with that will also involve the possibility ofdanger.
Certainly, situations involving armed suspects fall into thiscategories such as armed robberies, abductions, hostage situations, or anintoxicated, drug addicted, or mentally ill suspect whose behavior is out ofcontrol. Many police officers will argue that domestic violence calls are amongthe most dangerous and threatening calls that they receive because of thevolatile nature of the situation and the presence of individuals that are proneto irrational behavior. It is also true that routine traffic stops can at timesbe exceedingly dangerous.
While it is certainly true that most traffic stopsproceed without serious incident, it is possible that police officers can besubjected to violent situations involving intoxicated motorists, fugitives,drug traffickers and other potentially dangerous individuals (Karaffa &Koch, 2016). StressfulConfrontations with SuspectsYetwhen the matter of the level of stress that is experienced by law enforcementpersonnel is being analyzed there are many other matters that have to be takeninto account besides the potential threat of violence. One of these is the manystressful situations that law enforcement personnel may experience that do notnecessarily involve a direct threat of violence involving firearms and otherweapons, but are still stressful on many different levels. A fundamental aspectof the professional responsibilities of law enforcement personnel is theresponsibility for confronting individuals that are engaged in unlawful,suspicious, or disorderly activity. Often such individuals may be uncooperativeor confrontational when engaged in interaction with law enforcementprofessionals. Facing an ongoing series of confrontational episodes on aregular basis can certainly be stressful, and repeatedly being exposed tosituations of these kinds can result in the ongoing experience of stress(Gershon, Barocas & Canton, 2009). TheExperience of Traumatic EventsItis also true that there are a range of circumstances that police personnel maypotentially face that can lead to the experience of stress, and which maycontribute to the development of mental disorders over a period of time.
Forexample, when a police officer experiences a particular traumatic event, theresult may be that the officer in question developed post traumatic stressdisorder (PTSD). There are many such circumstances that may lead to a conditionof this kind. It is not only threats of violence that can contribute to stress onthis level.
Other factors can also be involved. For example, it is true thatpolice officers are frequently called not only to the scene of crimes but alsoto the scene of other emergencies such as accidents, fires, disasters, andother situations that can potentially result in stress. Stress may be generatednot only because of the danger that is present in such situations but alsobecause of the human suffering and loss of life that may be present (Zhao, He& Lovrich, 2002). Arange of examples can be used for the purpose of illustrating theseobservations. A particularly well-known case involves the police officers inNew York City who were the first responders to the September 11, 2001 terroristattack, many of whom died at the scene of the attacks, with others sufferingsevere injuries as well as psychological trauma. Another well-known incidentinvolves the police officers in New Orleans who were among the first respondersto the flooding that occurred during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In both instances,police officers were responding to an emergency situation that involved eithera terrorist incident or a natural disaster, and not a routine criminal matter.However, police officers lost their lives, suffered injuries, and experiencedseverely stressful situations that inevitably led to the development of mentalhealth difficulties such as post traumatic stress disorder in many instances.
While it is certainly true that many police officers and law enforcementpersonnel go through their entire careers without ever experiencing a situationas dramatic as these, it is also true that there are many different kinds ofsituations that police personnel may be called upon to face that will involve atremendous amount of stress. Police officers routinely deal with matters suchas severe traffic accidents involving multiple deaths, construction accidents,and other situations that can be traumatizing to the individual thatexperiences them (Karaffa & Koch, 2016). RepeatedExposure to Horrible Criminal ActsLikewise,there are many other kinds of situations that are associated with police workthat can potentially generate stress. One of these involves the actual processof investigating crimes. Certainly, a law enforcement agent that is assigned tothe investigation of homicides, rapes, crimes against children, and othersevere criminal actions will routinely encounter the very worst aspects ofhuman nature and the darkest sides of the human personality. Repeatedly beingexposed to the misdeeds of dangerous criminal can have the effect of breedingpessimism and cynicism on the part of an individual. It can also bepsychologically disturbing to repeatedly view the scenes of gruesome crimes, orto interrogate criminals that are suspected of the foulest offenses.
Certainly,law enforcement personnel may at times experience difficulties with stress thatoriginated from repeated exposure to such individual and situations (Hart,Wearing & Headey, 1995). HarmingSomeone or Failing to Prevent Harm to OthersArange of other circumstances are involved in the practice of law enforcementthat can also lead to the experience of stress. One of these involves feelingsof failure, regret, or remorse for a negative situation that may have occurred.For example, if a police officer is in a situation where they are forced bycircumstances to kill someone as a matter of self-defense or in the defense ofothers this can certainly be a cause of severe stress. Many police officersthat have found themselves in such situations have had to undergo psychologicalcounseling and other forms of assistance in order to cope with the emotionaland mental difficulties that arise from such situations. Certainly, it can bevery stressful for an individual to face a situation where they have to kill someoneeven if the individual in question is threatening them or others in theprocess.
A parallel situation that may potentially occur in the lives of policeofficers and law enforcement personnel in the performance of their professionalduties is a situation where they were unable to prevent the death or injury ofanother person. One such situation might be one where a police officerexperienced the death or injury of their partner. Another might be acircumstance where they were not able to prevent the death or injury of a crimevictim, hostage, or some or innocent person (Evans, Coman & Stanley, 1993). Accusationsof Police Brutality or Excessive ForceArelated set of circumstances involves issues pertaining the question of “policebrutality” or “excessive use of force.
” It is true that this issue is one thatis highly controversial in society at large. The law enforcement professionalis often accused of engaging in police brutality or the excessive use of forcein a range of circumstances. Indeed, multiple highly publicized cases of thesekinds have emerged in recent years such as the shooting of Michael Brown byOfficer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, the death of Eric Garnerduring an arrest in New York City for selling untaxed cigarettes, the death ofFreddie Gray in Baltimore while traveling in a police van, and other similar orcomparable cases. One issue that police offices and law enforcement personnelmust always be mindful of is the need to refrain from actions that would involvea violation of the law on their own part, but also to avoid acting in such away that the appearance of illegality or impropriety may be present (Karaffa& Koch, 2016). Ofcourse, it is the responsibility of law enforcement personnel to not onlyenforce the law but to so within the boundaries imposed by the Constitution,relevant legislation and case law, and professional and ethical guidelines. Itis also true that police officers may make honest mistakes that produceterrible results, such as killing a suspect out of the mistaken but sincerebelief that the suspect was armed and threatening others. Additionally, policeofficers often face situations where they are likely to be exposed toaccusations of police brutality, excessive force, corruption or other unethicalor unlawful behavior even if they have not violated the law or professionalstandards. The persistent threat of such accusations can be a source of stressfor police officers and law enforcement personnel.
Certainly, it is a verystressful situation when a police officer is accused of such offenses and itsubjected to a professional investigation or even criminal charges (Chan, 2007). Conclusion It is clear that there are a wide range of circumstancesthat police officers and law enforcement personnel potentially face that canlead to the experience of severe stress. Among the circumstances of these kindsinclude the potential threat of violence, stressful and dramatic confrontationswith suspects, the experience of traumatic events, repeated exposure tohorrible criminal acts, harming someone or failure to prevent harm to others,and accusations of police brutality or excessive force. Each of the differentkinds of situations can produce severe stress or trauma, and this can in turnlead to ongoing mental health difficulties such as depression, suicidalthoughts, and post traumatic stress disorder.
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