Police Officer Stress


What kinds of Police Officer Stress will you face?

People automatically think of criminals when they discuss stress and a Police Officer. That's an obvious one. But what else ?

Well, the  shift work is going to be stressful. It's unnatural to be awake at night when your body is telling you to pack it in and get some sleep.

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How about the stress of dealing with the public ? They're not criminals, and generally they're good people. But they expect you to solve all their problems because you're a cop.

They'll call you with matters that really don't require the services of Police, but they expect you to fix it.

And you're expected to be professional and courteous even when they themselves are being complete jerks. Try to give it back to them, and suddenly they're offended and demanding your badge number so that they can file a complaint.

Also, when you are in uniform and working, people will ALWAYS BE WATCHING YOU.

Whether it's because you're handling a call, or just walking the beat. And people will criticize. They'll tell you that you shouldn't have, or should have, done something. Or they'll say that the way you did something was wrong.

Officers also have to deal with a justice system which sometimes seems like its designed to protect the criminals, rather than the victims.

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Police Officers also see things that many people will hopefully never have to see. They will attend calls and observe pain and suffering.

Officers will attend calls where individuals have died. Many of these will not even be criminal in nature, but Police Officers will still respond to traffic accidents where people have perished.

Or go to calls where the neighbors complain of a "bad smell." Once inside, Officers will discover decomposing remains. The smell of rotting flesh is awful, but imagine dealing with the smell as well as the realization that this was a human being, someone's father, mother, sister, brother, or child.

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Now imagine having to maintain your composure all the while knowing that the unenviable task of notifying the next of kin is soon to come.

Can you imagine sitting down with parents of a deceased child, having to give them the worst news that they could ever imagine? Imagine the look on their faces as they realize that their child is dead and that they will never hold them or speak to them again?

Sure, it's not as awful as it is for the next of kin, but without question, it's a stressfull time for the officer as well.

Sure, when you are in the Police Academy and in training, they cover this topic to a degree. They talk about wellness and counsellors and such, but I think we can all agree that there are times when academia or training situations just don't reflect what can actually take place in the real world. Stress is real. Speaking to counsellors can help, but it may not eliminate everything.

Just be prepared that there is a good likelihood that you will encounter this...

Stress and Lethal Force 

The Police officer stress discussed in the previous paragraphs seem to revolve around self control and restraint, don't they?

In training, they'll tell you that you'll have to be able to deal with Police Officer Stress, and to have "self control", be professional, that you're "representing the department"....

But what happens when situations are so extreme and intense that the effects hit you physically, mentally and emotionally in a way that it's almost impossible to control your emotions.

What if you're involved in an altercation where you use lethal force? What if you discharge your firearm to protect yourself, partner, or the public at large in order to stop a threat, and end up killing the suspect?

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Or worse, what if you fail and your partner or an innocent member of the public is killed? What if you end up staring down the barrel of a bad guy's gun and watch as the muzzle flashes as bullets fly in your direction. I guarantee, your stress will go right through the roof.


You'll go through multiple situations which will bring you even more stress:

* the departmental investigation into the shooting

* the scrutiny by the media

* the scrutiny by the community

* threats of civil action by the family of the suspect and depending on the scenario

* scrutiny by your peers.

All of the above compounding onto the original incident can become a quadruple decker stress sandwich with another side order of stress.

When the departmental investigation is concluded, you will resume normal duties...but may find it difficult to be at ease on patrol again.

Any time that you attend a call, you may have flashbacks to the original incident where you fired your gun, or when you were fired upon.

The police officer stress caused by the entire ordeal may prevent you from functioning the way you had before, which in turn, can lead to even more stress.

Emotionally, humans have a limit as to what they can take, and everyone is a bit different, but when emotionally overloaded, stress will begin to manifest itself in physical forms.

It's normal when this happens, because the body is trying to adjust and revert back to normal. If the body can't do this, illnesses, both physically (for example, an ulcer), and psychologically can develop.

Most, if not all departments have counselling programs which are meant to help with police officer stress and these difficult situations. Unfortunately, there is a stigma that is still attached to those who use their services, and because of that, many who require help will not seek it for fear that they will be seen as weak, or unstable.

Often times officers will turn to the "bottle", and it's no secret that alcohol abuse takes place in many departments.

Clearly, alcohol use is not a productive way to deal with police officer stress, or any type of stress as it is unhealthy and becomes a stressor in it's own right.

It can lead to health problems which are not just physical, but emotional and mental as well. An inablility to communicate properly with spouses and family can develop, with outbursts of anger and wild emotion which is obviously unhealthy for the entire family.

The officer's family may be the one resource that the officer is willing to accept help from, but can end up becoming destroyed by the abuse of alcohol.

It could take years and years of bombardment of these various types of Police Officer stress, or perhaps just one serious event, but Police Officers may develop post traumatic stress disorder. Here's a trailer for a documentary that I found.

 I haven't seen it yet, and would love to but I'm having a hard time finding it. Anyhow, I think the trailer depicts some of the emotional distress that officers can face and the effects that it can have on family.

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