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Supporting Officer Wellness Within a Changing Policing Environment: What Research Tells Us

NCJ Number
PoliceChief Volume: 83 Dated: May 2016 Pages: 22-24
Date Published
May 2016
3 pages
This overview of research on police safety and health focuses on the wellness effects and policies related to longer shifts, sleep disorders, and cardiovascular health.
Current research indicates that police officers' health is an important component of officer safety, along with an agency's strategies, tactics, and technologies. President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing notes in its report that a large proportion of officer deaths and injuries have resulted from poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, poor physical fitness, or substance abuse. Among its recommendations is that law enforcement agencies develop programs that address officers' mental and physical well-being. The current article features sections on what research has shown about the physical and mental effects of longer shifts, sleep disorders, and cardiovascular health. Research on officer shift lengths has shown that officers working 12-hour shifts had lower levels of alertness while working and reported being sleepier compared to officers on 8-hour shifts. This suggests an increased risk for harms due to longer reaction times and poor decisionmaking associated with 12-hour shifts. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are linked to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and increases in motor vehicle crashes. Research has also determined that police officers have poor cardiovascular health compared to workers in other occupations. The physical and mental demands of police work place officers at risk for poor cardiovascular health, making it critical for them to have a physical fitness regimen and effective stress-management and coping techniques. The article also discusses the distinctive mental health needs of female police officers, since women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression over their lifetimes. Female officers also face the stress associated with working in a male-dominated environment. 20 notes

Date Published: May 1, 2016