Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Police, Stress and Getting Help

                If you don’t have any friends or family in the law enforcement profession you may not be aware of the burden and stress that police work can sometimes bring upon an officer. Every year there is more research done on the effects that police work can bring upon an individual, and thus help in the form of counseling.  Police officers can often find it difficult to come home from a tough day at work and tell friends and family about their day because the officer thinks people will either not understand or out of fear of possibly contaminating the non-police family life. After prolonged exposure to harsh conditions as work (depressing, negative situations) an officer can suffer from what is termed “compassion fatigue”. When an officer is suffering from this they can often seem distant to those closest to them. There is a term call “Kevlar skin” that refers to an officer suppressing his/her emotions and thoughts possibly because of the aforementioned reasons.  Research has also indicated that police officers can also start to suffer over time to adrenaline spikes due to the nature of their duty. Effects can be physical, emotional and psychological which makes counseling services all the more legitimate and important.
Officers are human beings after all, and human beings can falter even if they are professionals in their field. If the right kind of counseling is not available to them, events like the video below can occur. Think of all the times you’ve heard stories of police brutality. Can you think of why that would happen? Inept cops? Racism? Sexism? Stress? How many of those instances could have been avoided with proper treatment of and officer who needed help? When a police officer snaps like this, it is a mar on the image of the entire police department. It is something that needs to be addressed and held at the forefront in every police department.

Some police departments may offer some sort of training on coping with critical events while on duty but I think it’s time as future criminal justice professionals to hold it to a higher standard and realize that this is a serious issue that police officers face and that very few on the outside understand. Many police departments have been forced to reduce the size of the police force because their budget has been cut which might also mean that they cannot afford to provide officers with an organized system of support. One cost effective and simple method of treatment is called internal peer counseling teams. Sometimes all an officer needs is someone to talk to; someone who he/she can relate with in a professional way and who will listen to them and understand their problems. This form of therapy may very well already exist unofficially within many departments but I think that the department should regulate it so that it is more organized, beneficial, and so every officer who wants to take advantage of it has the opportunity to. There are many occupations involving great deals of stress such as the military, nursing, even teaching, but as criminal justice students we must focus our attention on the causes and cures of the stress and burdens related to police work in order to keep the profession moving along an upward and positive track.



  1. Police stress is an extreme aspect of policing. Possible suspects and even basic citizens do not commonly think about what types of stressors and activity a certain officer has been through. I think it is safe to say the there are very few professions out there that are as stressful and tole-taking on the body. This blog also brings up another point regarding habilition. The law enforcement and criminal justice system is all about justice and rehabiliting offenders back into society. I find it ironic that even officers within themselves are striving, and clearly need habilition as well. Obviously these are two different extremes, but is quite necessary. Im not sure if the frequency of these "snaps" are increasing or if the media is beginning to protray this type of behavior as more commong; But one thing I do know is that some form of workplace stress coping treatment should be implemented in every police department.

  2. Many people would agree that police officers carry a load of stress on the job. Within the criminal justice systems, professionals strive to decrease recidivism. Patrolling in itself is a stress factor due to the fact that policing para military based having to deal with one person to another and it build up stress hoping that someone takes action. Also society views law enforcement as a "typical" officer, one that drinks too much or never comes home. Really that is only the case of select officers due to stress. In the article when it stated that police departments are cutting back due to budgets. Talking to someone in general is a stress reliever, so as stated above it is a good idea to have police officers talk to professionals. All in all any job can cause stress, but the only reasons law enforcement has a lot more stress is that they deal with issues such as racism, drugs and weapons.

  3. I think this is a great article with a very serious issue mentioned. I think that many people forget that police officers are human beings as well. They go under a great deal of stress that average citizens don't even think about. I definitely think it is important for police officers to seek help when they need it. As a person wanting to go into the policing field I think it's a great issue to bring up in a criminal justice class. Awareness is one of the best tools you can use. Teach the signs of stress, etc and let everyone know the different treatment options. When people actually go through it themselves then, they may be more likely to seek out help instead of just pushing their feelings inside themselves. Holding your feelings in is never good, but for those that protect the public it is even more important to make sure that stress doesn't become too much.

  4. This was a great topic to write on, and is something that is very serious and usually unmentioned. The ever constant possibility of being injured, attacked, or even shot can do horrible things to a persons mind, especially when they must deal with this on a daily routine. Constantly seeing people at their worse can also lead to a jaded feeling towards society and can make one very pessimistic. The average citizen could not possibly understand the stress police officers must deal with which, sometimes leads to sudden outbursts of frustration or even violence. It is sad that most police departments do not psychologists on hand to help officers deal with their stress. The only time a counselor is provided is when an officer is involved in a shooting. The best way to combat stress is to be educated on the affects and symptoms, and get counseling even if you are afraid of talking about your feelings; it could very possibly save you from a heart attack.

  5. My farther is a police officer and my gradfather was also a police officer and I have seen the stress that the job brings. It is something that really cannot be stopped, it is only something that can be dealt with in a correct way. I know a lot of officers deal with the stress by drinking and keeping everything bottles up, but that is not the best way to go about dealing with extreme types of stress. Not to mention a lot of people treat police officers in a degrading or non friendly way, this causes them to be even more stressed. Another issue is the problems that arise with the officer's family. The family wants to know about the officer's day and how everything is and a lot of the times the officer does not want to bring the heavy weight of the job home wit him. This causes even more problems with the family because they think he is not communicating well. Which leads to fights and further arguments It is a tough situation for a police officer and many are not able to handle the stress of the job. So, if you want to be a police officer just know that stress and many difficult situations will arise simply from just being a police officer. Also i agree that it is sad that most police departments do not have psychologists to help these officers deal with their problems.