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Stress can be managed at an individual and organizational level. In the area of police stress the focus has tended to be on the management of stress at the organizational level (Bull et al, 1983). In two studies which asked officers about ways of managing job stress five organizational factors were identified: better training to cope with demanding situations, support from senior ranks, better familiarity with police procedures, improved police–community relations and fewer bureaucratic obstacles (Gudjonsson and Adlam, 1982; Gudjonsson, 1983, cited in Hollin, 1989: 144).
Interestingly, no reference was made to the offer of counselling for officers who had experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.
This may be because of the police’s negative view and rejection of psychological services (Miller, 1995). This relates to the occupational culture of the police whereby counselling services are likely to be perceived as an inability to cope and frowned upon by colleagues.
It is important for the police service to develop an understanding of what aspects of the job cause stress and also how individuals deal with stress to determine how best they can manage stress at an organizational level
Ross and Alison (1999) explored the effectiveness of critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) with Australian police officers who had been involved in a shooting incident. They compared two groups of 30 officers: one group had received CISD and one group had not. The two groups were examined for differences in maladaptive coping strategies and levels of anger. The findings revealed that the group which received CISD showed a significant reduction in anger levels and increased use of adaptive coping strategies.
However, Ross and Alison (1999) emphasize the need for further research on CISD to also consider contextual life factors which may impact upon stress levels and coping strategies.
The police service has begun to recognize the detrimental effects stress can have on its officers and the ways in which stress can be identified and managed.
In order to reduce stress levels in policing there needs to be a conscious move away from the perception that officers are tough and able to cope with anything the job throws at them.
There also needs to be an acknowledgment and acceptance by officers that attending counselling and/or debriefing sessions aims to help them and does not reflect an inability to cope.
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