The many other occupations. However, it is also

  The
Causes of Stress Among Law Enforcement Personnel and the Impact of Stress on
Professional Performance NameAcademic
Institution      Author
Note      ClassProfessorDate   Introduction
            It is well-known and widely recognized that law
enforcement is an extraordinarily stressful occupation. Clearly, there are a
range of fairly obvious reasons why this is the case. The first and most
important reason is the constant prospect of danger. While it is true that
there are many other occupations that include a similar level of danger to that
of law enforcement, it is also true that law enforcement professionals must
pursue their vocations with the constant threat of potential danger (Bell &
Eski, 2014). The mere presence of this threat
potentially 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 the
accumulation of a high volume of stress. One of these involves the ongoing
presence of stressful situations that law enforcement professionals are
confronted with. Another involves the fact that law enforcement professional
are often overworked, and face constant scrutiny of their actions with regard
to possible citizen complaints of excessive use of force or reprimand from
superiors. It is necessary to not only determine the major contributing factors
to the stress that is experienced by law enforcement personnel, but also to
identify the ways in which this stress may impact professional performance,
along with ways of effectively managing stress (Abdollahi, 2002).
The
Potential Threat of Violence Faced by Law Enforcement Personnel             The first cause stress that police officers face is
obviously the threat of potential violence. Certainly, law enforcement work is
more dangerous than many other occupations. However, it is also true that the
dangers of police work are sometimes overstated. There are a range of law
enforcement occupations that do not involve direct interaction with criminal
suspects in a way that could potentially lead to violence. For example, some
law enforcement personnel work in administration, forensics, information
technology, and other aspects of the profession that are unlikely to lead to
potentially violent situations. Additionally, many patrol officers go through
their time in the field without ever experiencing a life-threatening situation.
Some police officers with years of experience will say that they have rarely
had to pull a gun on a suspect. Others will say that any physical
confrontations 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 security
guard (Karaffa & Koch, 2016). Also,
statistical compilations of the causes of the deaths of police officers killed
in the line of duty often indicate that traffic accidents are just as likely to
be a cause of death as armed confrontation with suspects. Given the fact that
patrol officers spend a great deal of time behind the wheel of a vehicle, it is
likely to be true that police personnel would experience a high rate of traffic
accidents. Indeed, a comparison of the rates of deaths on the job among members
of different professions indicates that many other occupations, such as
construction or driving trucks, are just as dangerous as police work.
Therefore, the potential dangers that police officers face on the job should
not be exaggerated or overstated. However, it is certainly true that police
work can be very dangerous at times. The threat of danger is particularly present
in situations where police officers are working undercover, or where police
officers are involved with specialized forms of police work such as membership
on the SWAT team or participating in raids on the headquarters of members of
organized crime, drug traffickers, gangs, and other criminal suspects that are
known to have a high propensity towards the use of violence (Zhao, He &
Lovrich, 2002). It is certainly true that
there are a range of situations that a law enforcement professional can
potentially be confronted with that will also involve the possibility of
danger. Certainly, situations involving armed suspects fall into this
categories such as armed robberies, abductions, hostage situations, or an
intoxicated, drug addicted, or mentally ill suspect whose behavior is out of
control. Many police officers will argue that domestic violence calls are among
the most dangerous and threatening calls that they receive because of the
volatile nature of the situation and the presence of individuals that are prone
to irrational behavior. It is also true that routine traffic stops can at times
be exceedingly dangerous. While it is certainly true that most traffic stops
proceed without serious incident, it is possible that police officers can be
subjected to violent situations involving intoxicated motorists, fugitives,
drug traffickers and other potentially dangerous individuals (Karaffa &
Koch, 2016). Stressful
Confrontations with SuspectsYet
when the matter of the level of stress that is experienced by law enforcement
personnel is being analyzed there are many other matters that have to be taken
into account besides the potential threat of violence. One of these is the many
stressful situations that law enforcement personnel may experience that do not
necessarily involve a direct threat of violence involving firearms and other
weapons, but are still stressful on many different levels. A fundamental aspect
of the professional responsibilities of law enforcement personnel is the
responsibility for confronting individuals that are engaged in unlawful,
suspicious, or disorderly activity. Often such individuals may be uncooperative
or confrontational when engaged in interaction with law enforcement
professionals. Facing an ongoing series of confrontational episodes on a
regular basis can certainly be stressful, and repeatedly being exposed to
situations of these kinds can result in the ongoing experience of stress
(Gershon, Barocas & Canton, 2009). The
Experience of Traumatic EventsIt
is also true that there are a range of circumstances that police personnel may
potentially face that can lead to the experience of stress, and which may
contribute to the development of mental disorders over a period of time. For
example, when a police officer experiences a particular traumatic event, the
result may be that the officer in question developed post traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD). There are many such circumstances that may lead to a condition
of this kind. It is not only threats of violence that can contribute to stress on
this level. Other factors can also be involved. For example, it is true that
police officers are frequently called not only to the scene of crimes but also
to the scene of other emergencies such as accidents, fires, disasters, and
other situations that can potentially result in stress. Stress may be generated
not only because of the danger that is present in such situations but also
because of the human suffering and loss of life that may be present (Zhao, He
& Lovrich, 2002). A
range of examples can be used for the purpose of illustrating these
observations. A particularly well-known case involves the police officers in
New York City who were the first responders to the September 11, 2001 terrorist
attack, many of whom died at the scene of the attacks, with others suffering
severe injuries as well as psychological trauma. Another well-known incident
involves the police officers in New Orleans who were among the first responders
to the flooding that occurred during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In both instances,
police officers were responding to an emergency situation that involved either
a terrorist incident or a natural disaster, and not a routine criminal matter.
However, police officers lost their lives, suffered injuries, and experienced
severely stressful situations that inevitably led to the development of mental
health difficulties such as post traumatic stress disorder in many instances.
While it is certainly true that many police officers and law enforcement
personnel go through their entire careers without ever experiencing a situation
as dramatic as these, it is also true that there are many different kinds of
situations that police personnel may be called upon to face that will involve a
tremendous amount of stress. Police officers routinely deal with matters such
as severe traffic accidents involving multiple deaths, construction accidents,
and other situations that can be traumatizing to the individual that
experiences them (Karaffa & Koch, 2016). Repeated
Exposure to Horrible Criminal ActsLikewise,
there are many other kinds of situations that are associated with police work
that can potentially generate stress. One of these involves the actual process
of investigating crimes. Certainly, a law enforcement agent that is assigned to
the investigation of homicides, rapes, crimes against children, and other
severe criminal actions will routinely encounter the very worst aspects of
human nature and the darkest sides of the human personality. Repeatedly being
exposed to the misdeeds of dangerous criminal can have the effect of breeding
pessimism and cynicism on the part of an individual. It can also be
psychologically disturbing to repeatedly view the scenes of gruesome crimes, or
to interrogate criminals that are suspected of the foulest offenses. Certainly,
law enforcement personnel may at times experience difficulties with stress that
originated from repeated exposure to such individual and situations (Hart,
Wearing & Headey, 1995). Harming
Someone or Failing to Prevent Harm to OthersA
range of other circumstances are involved in the practice of law enforcement
that can also lead to the experience of stress. One of these involves feelings
of 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 by
circumstances to kill someone as a matter of self-defense or in the defense of
others this can certainly be a cause of severe stress. Many police officers
that have found themselves in such situations have had to undergo psychological
counseling and other forms of assistance in order to cope with the emotional
and mental difficulties that arise from such situations. Certainly, it can be
very stressful for an individual to face a situation where they have to kill someone
even if the individual in question is threatening them or others in the
process. A parallel situation that may potentially occur in the lives of police
officers and law enforcement personnel in the performance of their professional
duties is a situation where they were unable to prevent the death or injury of
another person. One such situation might be one where a police officer
experienced the death or injury of their partner. Another might be a
circumstance where they were not able to prevent the death or injury of a crime
victim, hostage, or some or innocent person (Evans, Coman & Stanley, 1993). Accusations
of Police Brutality or Excessive ForceA
related set of circumstances involves issues pertaining the question of “police
brutality” or “excessive use of force.” It is true that this issue is one that
is highly controversial in society at large. The law enforcement professional
is often accused of engaging in police brutality or the excessive use of force
in a range of circumstances. Indeed, multiple highly publicized cases of these
kinds have emerged in recent years such as the shooting of Michael Brown by
Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, the death of Eric Garner
during an arrest in New York City for selling untaxed cigarettes, the death of
Freddie Gray in Baltimore while traveling in a police van, and other similar or
comparable cases. One issue that police offices and law enforcement personnel
must always be mindful of is the need to refrain from actions that would involve
a violation of the law on their own part, but also to avoid acting in such a
way that the appearance of illegality or impropriety may be present (Karaffa
& Koch, 2016). Of
course, it is the responsibility of law enforcement personnel to not only
enforce the law but to so within the boundaries imposed by the Constitution,
relevant legislation and case law, and professional and ethical guidelines. It
is also true that police officers may make honest mistakes that produce
terrible results, such as killing a suspect out of the mistaken but sincere
belief that the suspect was armed and threatening others. Additionally, police
officers often face situations where they are likely to be exposed to
accusations of police brutality, excessive force, corruption or other unethical
or unlawful behavior even if they have not violated the law or professional
standards. The persistent threat of such accusations can be a source of stress
for police officers and law enforcement personnel. Certainly, it is a very
stressful situation when a police officer is accused of such offenses and it
subjected to a professional investigation or even criminal charges (Chan, 2007). Conclusion
            It is clear that there are a wide range of circumstances
that police officers and law enforcement personnel potentially face that can
lead to the experience of severe stress. Among the circumstances of these kinds
include the potential threat of violence, stressful and dramatic confrontations
with suspects, the experience of traumatic events, repeated exposure to
horrible criminal acts, harming someone or failure to prevent harm to others,
and accusations of police brutality or excessive force. Each of the different
kinds of situations can produce severe stress or trauma, and this can in turn
lead to ongoing mental health difficulties such as depression, suicidal
thoughts, and post traumatic stress disorder. A declining professional
performance or unprofessional conduct can also be a consequence of the
experience of stressful situations such as these on a recurring basis (Basinska
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