Impact of Operational Stress on Police Officers

Having a career in law enforcement is a high risk career with several factors that are direct links to increase operational stress as police officers. These factors that lead to occupational stress include – designation, gender, educational qualifications, community, marital status, place of residence, years of service, and monthly income. According to statistics published by NCBI; 77% of officers are caucasian while 23% are minority, more than 50% of police officers have obtained an undergraduate degree, 73% of officers are married, while 14% were divorced, and 13% were single, and 72% of police officers are ranked as patrol officers.

Stress as a police officer is an inevitable part of policing, as roles of policing comes with its own challenges such as – lack of advancement, inadequate supervision, and conflicts. Aside from occupational stress factors, sociological factors as a police officer can lead to possible health/physical problems like diseases and behavior changes that can put the public at risk.

According to M. Shunmuga Sundaram and Dr. M. Jeya Kumaran from “Demographic Difference and Occupational Stress of Police Constables”, occupational stress is the most common amongst constables with six years and under of experience, police officers with an undergraduate degree, and police officers within the ages of 20-29 years old. These stressors will directly affect a police officers involvement and efficiency of an individual and team work; it is believed that in order to be successful in policing, one must be mentally qualified for the job.

The necessary attributes a police officer must contain is a positive attitude, positive coping strategies, right job training, and a police officer’s control of occupational stress. Most police officers are satisfied with the stability of the job and salary; the negative aspects are the long hours and prospects for the future. Most law enforcement officers struggle with operational stress, which results from the ongoing tasks that are required from them on a daily basis. However, daily organizational stress has the strongest impact on the well-being of officers; organizational stressors lower job satisfaction in police officers.

Aside from the on the job stressors, work family conflict is caused mainly by requirements relating to work time such as long hours, and physically labored shifts. Due to the high demand, police officers spend majority of their time at work leaving their personal life (such as marriage and children) on the backburner. This work family conflict reinforces exhaustion, depersonalization, and lowers the sense of personal achievement; emotional exhaustion also aids to intensifying the work family conflict. Occupational stress and the long-term effects of the participation of police officers lowers their quality of life dependent on their physical and mental health as well as reduce vitality.

The most common stressors that police officers must face through their job as well as in their personal lives include – dealing with disputes and crisis situations, fellow officers not doing their job, responding to a felony in progress, and making critical on the spot decisions. After my reading, I have learned that police carry a lot on their shoulders on a daily basis, and tend to put the people’s needs ahead of their own social, mental, and psychological health. It is important that they’re resources for police officers to be able to have an outlet to work through their frustrations, fears, concerns, and other things that could hinder their personal health in general as well as affect their efficiency in doing their job.

Through research and findings, I have come to learn that police are regarded as the “true” sample of society. Being a police officer involves contact with citizens and the existence of a certain reputation. Once acquired the police status, to some extent you acquire public figure status (in the community, areas, places, environment in which you operate). In “daily life” the policemen must avoid inappropriate behavior in family or society, which could affect the police officer’s honor, integrity, or reputation of the institution. Because being a police officers is a lifestyle, not only a career.

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