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Public Health Implications of Law Enforcement Stress

NCJ Number
Robyn Gershon Ph.D.
Date Published
March 1999
0 pages
This speech presents background information and findings of research project that was funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and that examined the prevalence and incidence of police occupational stress; its psychological, physical, and behavioral outcomes; and its public health implications for organizational costs and functioning.
Project SHIELDS examined the demographic, psychosocial, work, organizational, and criminal justice system stressors experienced by law enforcement personnel; the coping skills and mediating factors that can reduce stress; and the health outcomes. The research also used an 11-item questionnaire to information on stress from police in Baltimore. Results revealed substantial levels of stress. Participants reported that the most stressful critical incidents were attending a police funeral, being the target of an internal investigation, experiencing a needle-stick injury, making a violent arrest, and knowing a victim. Impacts of stress included low energy, headaches, abuse of their spouse, abuse of their children, depression, anxiety, and other problems. In addition, 1 percent of the participants reported having daily thoughts of ending their life. The officers who reported high stress were much more likely than other officers to report poor health or spouse abuse. The public health implications of these findings include the costs turnover, stress-related illness and injuries, lost productivity, and other costs. Findings suggested that police agencies need to determine the prevalence of stress, identify and address the root causes, match personnel to their jobs, and monitor trend indicators related to stress. Slides displaying tables, audience questions and answers, and introduction by NIJ Director Jeremy Travis