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Police Work and Stress Essay

Stress is part of every people’s life. No matter what profession one is practicing and whatever lifestyle an individual is accustomed to, stress is always involved. In particular, police officers embrace stress as part of their profession. The moment they decided to become a police officer, bearing with stress has become inevitable. For one, their main goal, to save people who are in danger and to protect them from harm, is stressful. In effect, they become exposed to danger themselves and face this reality as part of a police officer’s job.

They are also not allowed to any kind of violation because they are the ones who impose it. When it comes to police work, stress is expected more than the regular or average jobs. It is given than this profession always put police officer’s life at risk. Stress comes from different sources and comes in various forms. There are direct and indirect factors that imply the involvement of stress in the police profession. It affects not only the life of the police officer but also the life of the people inside and outside the organization—their family, the organization, and their own life and personal identity.

Occupational stress is derived from what rank a police officer holds in the organization. Police officers deal with every kind of violence and alarming assignments each day of their lives. However, since they pledged an oath to fulfill their duty to the best of their abilities, they are not thinking much about stress and focus on their service instead. There are times when police officers encounter personal troubles which have a negative implication on them. This time, it cannot be accepted as a normal part of their duty because it is already outside the profession.

Dealing with family matter makes police officers lose their focus and fails to do their job properly. On the other hand, their family also experience stress because of the kind of job. Being in the said profession also requires police officers to be available at all times. The working schedule also causes them stress because of rotating shifts and unexpected call of duty. Aside from the aforementioned causes, this paper aims to delve into police-related stress, what causes it, what are the effects, and how it affects their obligations in the field of law enforcement. Defining Stress and Stressors

Stress is a disorder that affects an individual’s motivation (Crane, 1996). It bring about pressure not only physically but also mentally. There are two types of stress according to Crane (1996) in his book entitled Psychology of Stress. The first stress type is known as distress. This type of stress is relentless which makes one not capable of adaptation (Crane, 1996). Distress can cause mental disorders, depression, and anxiety if not given proper resolution (Crane, 1996). Another type of stress is the eustress. This stress is accumulated through experiences that cause positive reaction.

Unlike distress, this type of stress can improve the function of physical and psychological aspects of an individual through training and work (Crane, 1996). Stress occurs when one experiences pressure and demands which are not compatible to his/her ability to either physically or mentally deal with the situation (Leiter & Masslach, 1988). Conflicts, painful events, limitations, struggles, and lack of control are the common causes of stress (Leiter & Masslach, 1988). It affects the overall functioning of the individual, rendering him or her incapable of thinking and acting normally.

It can also cause certain disorders including hypertension, ulcer, insomnia, anxiety attack, and many more. Stress deteriorates the individuals’ over-all health depending on how the person copes with it (Violanti, 1996). Hence, stress generally affects lives as it modifies the ability, mental functioning and behavior of individuals in fulfilling their roles, regardless of the kind of profession that they have (Violanti, 1996). Stressors pertain to the primary causes of stress. They could be an immediate superior, a family member, an event, or a profession (Shirom, 1989).

Coping up with stress comes in two ways: reduction or avoidance. A person may either face the situation to put an end to the stress (reduction) or make some sort of escape to experience immediate relief (avoidance) (Shirom, 1989). Everyday, many stressors are faced by individuals that make or break them as a person. Absence of stress is impossible because everyday, new challenges and changes are experienced by everyone. The best way to deal with stress is by coping with it. Thus, it is always better to confront the situation rather than avoiding it (Shirom, 1989). Work Stress

As individuals become adults and start working, they have to deal with professional accountability. Work is necessary to support every need and want in life. Most of the time spent by professionals is in their workplaces where they encounter work stress in different forms each day. Usually, stressful situations spring from pressures and demands in their job which are beyond their knowledge and capacity, or from fears and anxieties in accomplishing their tasks. Some of the professions which greatly involve stress due to the nature of job include a fireman, a doctor, and a police officer, among others (Lee & Ashforth, 1996).

Stress can be positive and negative for the worker depending on the response of the individual him- or herself and the circumstances. A positive kind of stress usually makes the worker more motivated and focused in accomplishing their duties and responsibilities. On the other hand, negative stress may occur when there are unexpected events that can make them lose composure which, in effect, become detrimental to their performance (Lee & Ashforth, 1996). Police Stress Basically, police stress is the kind of stress experienced in the law enforcement community.

This is brought about by direct and indirect factors that are incorporated the nature of the job and the organizational structure of the law enforcement community. As police officers are mainly responsible for protecting and serving the society and its people, they are required to be physically, emotionally, and psychologically prepared at all times because they are expected to be always available. In addition, they are expected to keep an active presence of mind and make sensible decisions especially during crucial situations such as criminal encounters and hostage takings.

Because of these expectations, police officers experience stress twice of the stress endured by other professionals. The work environment of the law enforcement officers has a great impact on the employees and the employee’s level of work, including their work productivity and their general physical and emotional health (Kurke, 1995). There is a notion that a cyclic relationship persists between work and home life of police officers from which police stress develops (Kurke, 1995). Stressors in the police work not only affect the police officer but their family as well.

It is likely that police stress negatively affects their relationship with others and their personal lives. For instance, most police officers experience marital problems because of the effects of the stressful events of their day which they unintentionally bring home with them. This gives rise to their involvement in various problematic domestic issues such as violence, alcoholism, substance abuse, and child neglect (Brief et. al, 1981). When police stress is rampant in the law enforcement community, it affects the performance of the police officers and at the same time, it puts everyone in the society at risk.

Police stress is a social issue that should not be taken for granted because it affects these individuals who chose to pursue this highly important profession that constitutes the maintenance of peace of order of the society. Causes of Police Stress Many sources of police stress can be found inside the police organization. The job itself and the people within the law enforcement community cause police stress. The characteristic of the profession is considerably difficult to look at. Being a police officer requires dedication and commitment to put their lives at risk while they are on duty.

They are also expected to comply with the given work schedule and special assignments. There are encounters which will cause trauma to police officers. Yet, they only receive poor compensation (Leiter & Maslach, 1988). There are also times when lack communication among administrators, poor supervision and inadequate training cause police officers to feel stressed. Another source of police stress comes from the officers themselves because they often doubt their capacity to perform a given task.

There are also issues regarding favoritism and politics within the law enforcement community that discourages a police officer to carry out a given assignment (Leiter & Maslach, 1988). The following sections present the most common organizational stressors in the work of a police officer, along with other direct and indirect factors that cause police stress. Direct Factors Job Characteristics The profession itself causes stress to police officers. Fear and danger make police officers suffer from stress. They always need to set aside their doubts, gather their courage in every dangerous situation that they get into.

Physical danger is always at hand because they should be ready to battle against unexpected criminals (Kurke, 1995). Adequacy and Control Perception of adequacy and control also causes police stress. The ability of a police officer to work on a job is based on his/her perception the skills that he/she possesses, and whether his/her skills are adequate to complete all the assigned task given to him/her, and. Hence, to meet the demands of the job, law enforcement officers should be well-driven. They should also have the necessary composure and confidence.

When police officers doubt their capacity to serve, it definitely instigates stress (Axelbend & Vaile, 1979) Control is defined as the ability of police officers to govern on special assignments. This is because as police officers, they are expected to control every situation that they get into. When a police officer lacks the necessary control to carry out an assigned task because he/she is hindered or manipulated by others, it brings out stress and at the same time leaves the case unsolved (Tenerowicz, 1993) Role Ambiguity Role ambiguity also results in stress among police officers.

This usually happens when they lack the necessary knowledge in fulfilling their roles and at the same time control the conditions of the work outcomes (Lee & Ashforth, 1996). When this occurs, police officers feel stressed as they are not yet prepared for the job. Role ambiguity is caused by a weak organizational structure and it hinders the police officer from performing his/her task. Most cases of role ambiguity is experienced by those who are in the administrative position because their functions are not clear to them. At the same time, they are not aware of up to what extent is their jurisdiction on their job (Shore, & Shore, 1995).

This becomes a source of stress because it makes police officers doubtful of their capacity to serve. They tend to question themselves if they are able to perform well because they themselves are not aware of the position given to them. They are afraid of not being respected by their subordinates which gives them a feeling of insecurity. Work Schedule Police officers are expected to work based on a shifting schedule, rotating shifts, irregular days off, holiday work, unexpected overtime and involuntary overtime (Kurke, 1995).

This kind of schedule apparently affects their work performance because they are not getting enough sleep and energy. It also causes their moods to change and develop negative feelings. In the end, police officers experience stress and end up with poor performance (Kurke, 1995). Special Assignments There are special tasks given to police officers which in turn are greatly prized (Kurke, 1995). However, certain assignments require more focus and demand greater pressure from the police officer. There are special assignments which are needed to be completed at a given time frame.

As a result, police officers become stressed because they are expected to finish the said task as soon as possible. It also involves longer hours of training and longer working hours that separate them from their families. Because of depression and frustration when an assigned task is not completed accordingly, stress is developed (Kurke, 1995, p. 191). Role Conflict According to Kurk (1995), “many officers report difficulties related to the many demands inherent in law enforcement” (p. 191). Role conflict usually happens when police officers need to execute two roles with different conflicting demands or values.

One example of this is when a police officer catches delinquent teens in the community only to discover that one of those caught is his/her son. This puts the police officer in a conflicting situation because he/she is faced with the demand of arresting the suspect but at the same time he/she needs to protect his/her son (Lee & Ashforth, 1996). Family of Police Officers Another cause of stress for police officers comes from their families. They always harbor feelings of fear and danger when they are out of their homes for duty.

It develops stress to police officers because they are thinking of their families while they are on duty. This will make them lose focus and may end up not completing the assigned task. There are also instances when family occasions are set aside because of special assignments. This makes police officers more stressed because they develop sadness of not being able to participate in an important family occasion. When a family member gets sick, it is also hard for the police officers to concentrate on their jobs because they are preoccupied with family problems.


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