occupational stress in law enforcement – conclusion

Occupational stress presents a major challenge to effective performance in many disciplines. In law enforcement, occupational stress is associated with adverse outcomes both at the individual and organizational level. The purpose of this paper was to evaluate how law enforcers can combat stress at the work place. The paper first identifies the causes of stress in law enforcers and then evaluates effect of stress on individuals and organizations in order to provide an informed background towards identification of approaches for combating stress.

Occupational stressors in law enforcement fall under organizational and operational categories. Organizational stressors are associated with aspects of law enforcement agencies such as bureaucracies, composition, authoritarian leadership and lack of enough support that subject officers to stressing conditions. Operational stressors on the other hand relate to the duties that police officers play that subject them to aspects such as trauma e.g. in case of riots or witnessing grave accidents. Although an individual’s position in the organization can determine the risk of exposure to any of these types of stressors, organizational antecedents of stress are more powerful than the operational ones.

The effects of stress are however, independent of the type of stressor involved but rather its impacts. Occupational stress does not only affect individuals but the organizations they work in. For individuals occupational stress could result into psychological, physical and behavioral adverse outcomes affecting ones performance. Organizational impacts could arise from lowered productivity of affected individuals and when stress results into individuals vacating office, such organizations may face various staffing challenges. To combat occupational stress within law enforcement discipline approaches aimed at eliminating the stressor factors would provide a long lasting solution. Organizational stressors for instance require the change in a culture that promotes discrimination among colleagues and eliminates an individual’s control over ones work. Encouraging open discussions among law enforcers to acknowledge and seek assistance to deal with stress e.g. through stress debriefing session after critical events is also important in eliminating occupational stress in the organizations. Finally, training leaders to identify signs of stress in line officers early enough and institute remedy measures that avert progression to grave levels could alleviate the stress challenge within law enforcement agencies.

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