Management and Dealing with Stress in Officers It is important that law enforcement officers are able to handle stress and build his or her zone of stability. Officers have a ready-made support system in each other. They better understand the special problems and feelings that come with the job that friends and family members don't. That doesn't necessarily mean that this relationship with their fellow officers will cure all. Sometimes, because of the "macho" image that police officers uphold, they will give back negative feedback in a situation where an officer needs comfort. For example, an officer shoots someone in the line of duty and is having an emotional struggle with it, and a fellow officer (who thinks he is supporting that officer) makes a comment like, "Good job, that dirt bag deserves it." In a situation like that, a fellow officer feels worse and more stressed.
It is very important for management, whether police or correctional, to make sure that they can properly help out their officers when needed. There are many things that happen on the streets and in prison that can severely effect an officer. It is only with a good management system and staff that officers will have the proper support to move on. A major stressor is when a law enforcement officer must deal with death. No one is mentally or emotionally prepared to deal with death. When a law enforcement officer has to notify the next of kin, they must pass through stages of notification.
The first stage is to prepare by creating a self-protecting sense of social distance for the officer. An experienced officer will be more concerned with containing the emotions of the recipient rather than their concern for how they will cope. The next stage is the delivery. It only takes a few seconds to deliver the news, and the officer will use their badge, uniform, and the formality of the delivery as a way to protect him / herself from this personal situation (Looney & Windsor 1982). Dealing with the pain that you see in other people is a major adjustment. It will take time and experience for a law enforcement officer to cope with this aspect of the job.
The most traumatic event in a law enforcement officer's job is dealing emotionally with the involvement in a shutting incident. Officers may suffer from post traumatic stress reactions due to a shooting incident. It is estimated that one-third of officers have a mild reaction, one-third have a moderate reaction, and one-third have a severe reaction when involved in a shooting incident (Solomon 1988). Even if the officer has a good mental preparation and a solid zone of stability, other factors such as the degree of the threat to the officer's life (including wounds), amount of warning before the shooting, how long the danger persists, the security of the officer in his / her judgment to shoot, who the deceased person is, the administrative support he / she receives, and how the media treats the situation, all effect how mild, moderate, or severe the reaction will be. The long-term effects vary from person to person.
Some may suffer from flashbacks, sleep disturbances, nightmares, depression, fearfulness, emotional withdrawal from family and fellow officers, appetite changes and hostility towards the law enforcement system (Solomon 1990). In order to ensure that the officer's emotional reaction to a shooting incident remains at a minimum, the department should have a system setup for this. The officers must be reminded of what reactions they can expect when they are hired regarding their involvement in a shooting. There should never be any suggestion or accusation of wrongdoing during the debriefing interview. The officer should be debriefed on how the investigation procedure will operate so that the department can get all the facts regarding the incident. Court preceding and dispositions should be re-explained to prepare the officer for the court date, if necessary.
The requirement that the officer see a counselor within twenty-four hours of the shooting, to ride with another officer for a day or two following the incident, or to surrender a firearm during the investigation should be upheld. Stress in law enforcement is pervasive and, unlike occupations in which many stressor's may be eliminated, avoided, or reduced, law enforcement officers only have the option to learn more effective strategies for coping with stressor's. Ineffective coping will result in emotional blocking, withdrawing from the spouse, alcohol, drugs, sleeping aids, behavioral problems, and cynicism. Stress management is the key to relieving the stress and tension that a l law enforcement officer may harbor. Individuals react differently to relaxation methods based on their physiology and personality. The goal of stress management techniques works for everyone, and many people utilize several techniques under different conditions.
The choice of technique may be based on the person's preferred sensory mode or their unique combination of stress related symptoms. Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique to reduce stress. Emotional anxiety is directly related to muscle tension, and in order to reduce anxiety, you must eliminate it. A person can utilize a series of simple relaxation techniques that have been proven to be eighty percent accurate (Jacobson 1978). It is important for supervisors to make sure that their officers are coping well and have the proper methods to become better and continue with their line of duty safely. Management can prove to be either the glue that holds together a "team" or the ball that cracks it.
Good management can set a team apart from the rest. Whether it's in corrections or law enforcement, a good management can help make a team run smoothly and efficiently. Support must always be shown from management to it's officers. Reducing stress in officers can effectively help the team run better.
Especially in times of need, like death, management needs to step up and use the techniques they have been trained to safely help their officers in troubled times. With a management that can properly help out their team, the team can move on and run efficiently and effectively. When officers need help with an aspect of the job emotionally, and management can step in to help, the officer will feel better knowing that management is on their side and that they are based one hundred percent. A good management can make the difference between and O. K.
team and an outstanding team. References Jacobson, Edmund (1978). You Must Relax. New York; McGraw Hill. Looney, H.
& J. L. Windsor. (1982) Death Notification: Some Recommendations. The Police Chief. March, page 30-31.
Solomon, R. M. (1988). Post-Traumatic Trauma.
The Police Chief. October, page 40-44. Solomon, R. M.
(1990). Administrative Guidelines for Dealing with Officers involved in on-duty shooting situations. The Police Chief. February, page 40.