Nowadays, there is an urgent need to acknowledge the fact that law enforcement officers work under the great pressure due to the daily dangers and risks they encounter while prosecuting criminals. However, in early days, stress was often not regarded as a problem that influenced the effectiveness of the police work in general. Currently, the advances in medical and technology research have proven that stress is an inherent component of the police profession. Some of the evidence presented involves depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety as being the major outcomes of stress in the workplace. Therefore, there should be specific recommendations and solutions, such as training courses, counselors’ support, and regular discussions of the cases, which need to be presented to fill out the gaps and make law enforcement officers more resistant to the external stimuli.
Many police officers are not aware of the long-term outcomes of chronic exhaustion and fatigue, as well as their relation to stress and anxiety. Extra working hours, lack of sleep, and irregular meals can have a negative effect on health, creating a predisposition to mood disorders and adversely affecting the overall physical state of an organism. Increased fatigue and stress can also have a negative impact on the overall effectiveness of police officers in terms of decision-making, reaction to the unexpected outcomes, and overall performance when it comes to crime rates.
To prove the above idea, Basińska and Wiciak (2012) have stated that permanent work overload, excessive requirements, and work schedule are among the important underpinnings of fatigue and burnouts of employees. This specifically concerns security services, such as firefighters and police officers. It can also be associated with working night and day shifts without regular rest, a constant state of pressure, and inadequate adherence to safety rules. Distribution of personal resources is an important element of acute forms of exhaustion. Whereas fatigue has a temporary effect, burnout can bear a chronic character. The authors have sought to define and evaluate the connection between burnout and fatigue in two identified groups of people. The Fatigue Scale was introduced to assess the fatigue in the workplace, whereas the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory was employed to estimate disengagement and exhaustion (Basińska & Wiciak, 2012). The findings of the research demonstrated that police officers were more tired and fatigued as compared to firefighters due to disengagement and exhaustion. It has also shown that the connection between exhaustion and fatigue and between disengagement and fatigue was identical in both groups. Therefore, the difference between firefighters and law enforcement officers in terms of burnout and fatigue could be explained by diverse requirements and scheduling. Depletion of resources is represented through disengagement and exhaustion. The practices of reducing the negative outcomes of the work, such as stress and fatigues, could allow preventing an increase in chronic disorders, such as occupational burnouts.
Information on sleep deprivation has demonstrated that the lack or absence of sleep can contribute to a range of destructive or severe workplace accidents. In this respect, Senjo (2011) has examined various law enforcement agencies to explore the circumstances under which dangerous levels of stress and fatigue in police officers are revealed. Initial results have shown an extremely high level of working hours per officers due to the lack of effective time management. Other factors, such as secondary employment, have revealed that employees had to work excessively hard and indicated that they faced insufficient rest. The combination of reduced sleep and hard work dangerously enhances the risk of officers’ injury and puts the public safety in question. Furthermore, it increases the likelihood of avoidable accidents and, consequently, civil liability damage awards (Senjo, 2011). Thus, stress in the workplaces does not only affect the mental and physical state of police officers but also negatively influences the overall public safety.
Before eliminating the signs of fatigue, work overload, ineffective time management, and lack of effective time scheduling, it is highly essential to know the underpinnings of stress. To prove the idea, Kara, Sunger, and Kapti (2015) have explored the stress factors influencing police officers in various countries, particularly in Turkey and the United States, to show the difference of stress disorders between Asian and American police officers. The researchers have stated that both geographical conditions and international problems have a potent effect on international policy problems. For example, gun and drug smuggling and human trafficking are among the common stress factors among Turkish police officers. In the United States, the country that has a developed economy and is concerned with crime rates, the occupational stress is a common outcome for police officers.
There is a list of negative outcomes of officers’ stress and fatigue. To begin with, stressed and tired officers can have impaired and subjective judgment. They can suffer from weight gain and eating disorders due to the lack of sleep and unbalanced daily meals. Police workers can also experience extreme mood swings, anxiety, and depression, leading them to take drugs and antidepressants (Basińska & Wiciak, 2012). They can also demonstrate evident aggravation of visual and auditory skills, which in general weakens their reaction. An increased change in drug and substance abuse, increased number of reports on headaches and back pain, along with a higher probability of post-traumatic stress disorders, are also among the major outcomes of excessive work overload.
Police officers are governmental agents who stand at the core of public safety and security; they are imposed with tremendous accountability for citizens’ life and welfare. As a result, they should be rewarded accordingly and supported by the governmental training program that would ensure their emotional and psychological stability, as well as provide them with the sufficient working conditions, such as regular shifts, daily workouts, days off, and proper vacation (Bond, 2015). Additionally, working hours should be regulated by law enforcement legislation to provide police administrators with the possibility to control working hours in accordance with new regulations. Long duty hours and part time outside works, which are predetermined by low salary, impose additional stress and fatigue, leading to further aggravation of psychological and emotional state.
With regards to the above, the recommended change in the current law enforcement environment should be associated with the price tag and increased salaries. Politicians and public administration require police agents to protect the public safety without possible reward and consideration of human factors. As Bond (2015) assumes, “the financial reality is you cannot make the needed changes unless you address low police salaries, increase department manpower to alleviate officers working longer, and supply our law enforcement agencies with modern equipment and tools to serve the community efficiently.” Indeed, the federal government states that it does not have sufficient financing and, therefore, the required changes can be made as soon as total budget re-evaluation is presented.
There are certain methods that can be applied by police officers to reduce the fatigue and manage stressful incidents in a more effective way. To begin with, they should bear in mind that good mental state is primarily based on the physical health, which means that they should take control over their food intake and healthy meals. All the nutrients should be consumed to sustain a good way of life and respond effectively to the internal factors. Therefore, healthy eating choices are among the first strategies that should be implemented by police officers. The second step should imply regular meetings with counselors and psychologists where police officers can talk about their basic concerns and challenges they have to overcome while performing work routine.
Furthermore, the utmost responsibility and task of each police officer are to follow the core values and ethics in terms of commitment and excellence of working performance. It specifically refers to the responsible stewardship value, according to which God blesses people with the profusion of resources. In this respect, officers should promote the spirit of service and employ resources to community and university development (Saint Leo University, n.d.). Being resourceful, as well as optimizing and applying those resources for the community welfare is among the major priorities of the Saint Leo University’s mission and goals. Respect, care for the community, personal development, excellence, and integrity shape the holistic vision of a perfect work of law enforcement officers.
Portland State University (2014) presents a list of suggestions on preventing stressful situations and reducing fatigue in the workplace. Specifically, the recommendations include stress reduction programs, exercise programs, anonymous surveys, and efforts aimed at increasing job motivation and promotion. As an example, ten-hour shifts are the most effective for police officers because they face less fatigue and have a higher quality of sleep and a generally high level of work satisfaction (Portland State University, 2014). Eight-hour shift does not provide optimal conditions for sleeping due to the overtime as compared to other shifts. Further, officers who reasonably use force are more likely to improve the overall emotional stability. Finally, organizational psychologists resort to controlling negative workplace outcomes to reduce employee stress (Portland State University, 2014). Taking into consideration the created biases, they provide officers with a greater influence on working activities. Consequently, it creates the potential for perceiving and objectively evaluating the fair treatment and work control. There is also the Employee Assistance Program that can provide effective counseling and help of the psychiatrist expert for those police officers who witnessed violence and killings.
In conclusion, it should be admitted that stress in the law enforcement workplace causes chronic fatigue, displays of burnout, inadequate, aggressive behavior, and lack of objective judgment. In response to the problem, there should be a list of recommendations for police officers to rethink the strategy and provide a new outlook on the high quality of police work. To begin with, police officers should deal with the problems of managing their concerns and acknowledge their threats and fears. They should also realize possible outcomes of inadequate or poor rest. Being responsible in front of the government, law enforcement agents must also express accountability through an increased care for personal physical and mental welfare to avoid the risk of chronic fatigue, poor sleep, and unhealthy meals. Regular workouts, time management, optimal shifts for each officer and constant training with supervisors should provide a good basis for sustaining good health, which in turn can have a positive influence on the public safety and security. Such an approach is the key to enhancing the security of the economy of the U.S. and other countries at local and international levels. It is also a good recommendation for future applicants who should start preparing themselves for self-discipline and self-control. In fact, emotional and family support should be also included in the program to stay balanced in all the spheres of life.