U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Stress in Policing

NCJ Number
Date Published
184 pages
Publication Series
This analysis of police occupational stress and its mitigation develops the thesis that no matter what else may be done to prevent and ameliorate stress, organizational change may hold the key to improving the lives of police officers.
This analysis of police occupational stress draws primarily from a study conducted in two police departments in upstate New York. The study combined several methods of inquiry, including interviews, focus groups, personal observations, and questionnaires. One of the departments had undergone diversification and the other had not. Although the departments differed in diversity, both agencies were pursuing community-policing philosophies. The analysis focused on the relationship between stress and police reform, notably ongoing changes related to community-oriented policing and diversification of the police force. Older officers reported being more stressed than did younger officers. This was typically related to cumulative exposure to client problems, slower-than-hoped-for advancement, or less-than-anticipated recognition. Another primary factor was exposure to turbulent work environments over time, which became the occasion for discomfort with approaching retirement. Organization-related stress, compared with person-related stress, was identified by officers as the principal problem underlying stress. Organizational-related interventions, therefore, are required in preventing and ameliorating stress. There are current trends in policing that involve greater involvement of line officers in the organizational factors that affect their occupational duties. One is problem-oriented policing, which can include solutions to problems within the organization. Interventions have highlighted the importance of police union involvement and team efforts. Organizational peer interactions were also identified as a source of stress. These were based in gender-related and race-related diversity among personnel. Organizational reform to prevent and ameliorate stress must be based in an analysis of the roots of stress related to organizational practices and environments. Officers must then be involved in systematic efforts to plan and implement interventions that can relieve the organizational circumstances that cause and perpetuate stress. Chapter tables

Date Published: January 1, 2002