How law enforcement officers can combat occupational stress

Occupational stress has been a source of increased concern due to its widespread occurrence and association with ill health. A study conducted in Bristol with a random sample of 17,000 individuals, for instance, found out that 20% of those who were working had high or extremely high levels of occupational stress (Smith, Johal, Wadsworth, Smith & Peters, 2000). Such stress levels differed with the type of work (part-time or full time work), age and gender; though gender differences were mainly due to a higher number of females working in part-time jobs than males (Smith, et al., 2000). A similar study also indicated stress levels at the work place varied significantly with the type of occupation (Smith, Brice, Collins, Matthews & McNamara 2000). According to this latter study, occupations such as nursing, teaching, security and road transport had the highest degree of reported stress levels whereas stress levels in jobs such as catering, hair & beauty and textile processing had lowest levels of reported occupational stress (Smith, et al., 2000).

Combating occupation stress within law enforcement environment is of significant importance since such stress does not only affect the individuals but also the organizations they work in.  Law enforcement officers who experience high levels of stress related to their jobs, for instance, report high cases of physical and psychological problems that adversely affect their job performance (Morash, Haarr & Kwak, 2006). Such effects of occupational stress on the law enforcers include poor health, burnouts and dissatisfaction with jobs thus leading to high cases of absence from work and premature retirement  where there is insufficient organizational commitment to reduce the stress levels (Morash, et al., 2006). Ultimately, individual law enforcers faced with persistent occupational stress suffer chronic stress, depression, stomach disorders and turn to negative behavior such as drug and substance abuse partially as a coping mechanism (Morash, et al., 2006). Such effects on individual performance, when cumulatively assessed, becomes a significant barrier for law enforcement agencies to provide quality services demanded of them by the population (Morash, et al., 2006).

With the designated adverse effects of occupation stress with respect to law enforcement, this paper assesses how law enforcement officers can combat stress at the work place. The paper first evaluates the causative factors of stress for law enforcers and then assesses the effects of stress on the individual and the organization. Finally, the paper will evaluate various approaches to deal with stress within the law enforcement occupations in order to inform on a strategy that can better the management of stress in such places. Go to part 2 here.

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