Background: The unpredictable, and sometimes dangerous, nature of the occupation exposes officers to both acute and chronic stress over law enforcement officers' (LEO) tenure. The purpose of this study is two-fold: 1) Describe multi-level characteristics that define high-stress calls for service for LEO; and 2) Characterize factors that impact cumulative stress over the course of a LEO's shift. Methods: Qualitative data were collected from 28 LEOs at three law enforcement agencies in the Dallas-Fort Worth areas from April 2019 to February 2020. Focus group data were iteratively coded by four coders using inductive and deductive thematic identification. Results: Five multi-level factors influenced officer stress: 1) officer characteristics (e.g. military experience; gender); 2) civilian behavior (e.g. resistance, displaying a weapon); 3) supervisor factors (micromanagement); 4) environmental factors (e.g.Time of year); and, 5) situational factors (e.g. audience present; complexity of calls). Four themes that characterized cumulative stress: 1) cyclical risk; 2) accelerators; 3) decelerators; and 4) experience of an adverse event. Conclusions: LEOs become susceptible to adverse events (e.g. injury, excessive use of force) after repeated exposure to high-stress calls for service. Ongoing exposures to stress continue to occur throughout the shift. Our long-Term goal is to interrupt this repetitive, cumulative process by restricting the number of consecutive high-risk, high-intensity calls an officer is permitted to respond to.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health