University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Issues That Plague Law Enforcement Personnel
In the criminal justice career path many problems can arise. Stress from the job can create problems in the work field as well as in the personal and social areas of one’s life. Job stress can also tie into fatigue and alcohol and/or drug abuse. Fatigue gives us tired cops and tired cops can be a bad thing in the criminal justice field. Alcohol and drug abuse plagues cops everywhere. There are many suggestions for programs and treatment ideas for these problems that plague our law enforcement officers.
Job stress can’t be avoided in any job field. It especially can’t be avoided in the field of law enforcement. Job stress can come from many sources. Having to exercise prudent discretion all the time, the threat of using violence and having violence used against them, and isolation from the rest of society are the major causes. It can lead to negative attitudes, burnout, loss of enthusiasm and commitment (aka cynicism), increased apathy, divorce, substance abuse and health problems, and many other social, personal, and job-related problematic behaviors. Work place support, training officers to cope with the effects of stress, stress management, and stress training are things that law enforcement are currently doing to lessen job stress. Stress training includes diet info, biofeedback, exercise, relaxation, and meditation. I believe that all law enforcement personnel should have to undergo psychological and fitness evaluations every three to six months.
Fatigue is a growing problem in law enforcement today. Lengthy shifts with unpredictable hours can cause for a major loss of sleep for law enforcement personnel. It can cause officers to act inappropriately or become injured on the job. It can cause car accidents or officers to fall asleep at the wheel. It can also cause officers to miss important details of a case; sometimes a few hours of sleep can mean the difference between life and death. Administrators should pay attention to scheduling, adopt policies placing limitations on second jobs, and giving officers a voice in work-hour and shift-scheduling decisions can help lessen the fatigue problem that plague our law enforcement personnel.
The sad part is that alcohol and/or drug abuse plagues law enforcement personnel and ties in with both job stress and fatigue. They are both major contributing factors to the start of alcohol and/or drug abuse. Counseling and self-help classes can help tremendously for personnel who admit they have a problem and seek help. If law enforcement personnel were to undergo psychological and fitness evaluations every three to six months we might be able to combat these problems before they start. If measures are taken and new programs implemented for combating the issues of job stress, fatigue, and alcohol and drug abuse we can lower the health risk that these problems pose to our law enforcement personnel. Job stress, fatigue, and alcohol/drug abuse are common problems. If we make our personnel aware of these major problems they may realize they have a problem or wish to avoid these problems taking over their lives. The hope is that they come and ask for help. Administrators also need to know how to spot a problem to get personnel help before the problem affects their lives, jobs, or anyone else’s lives.