Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Gender Stress: Differences in Critical Life Events among Law Enforcement Officers

Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Gender Stress: Differences in Critical Life Events among Law Enforcement Officers

Article excerpt


Police work is a highly stressful occupation, and police officers are frequently exposed to stressors that are unique to their jobs. Their role of protecting the public, for instance, makes it possible to anticipate both positive and negative responses to stress (Renck, Weisaeth & Skarbo, 2002). The effects of the stress have been empirically linked to the physiological and psychological illness of officers and to the decreased quality and quantity of police service. Moreover, the law enforcement culture plays a "direct role in the causation of traumatic stress reactions, and organization factors are particularly relevant when dealing with duty related psychological trauma" (Renck et al., p. 7).

Over the years, policing has been characterized as appropriate only for males and inconsistent with socially acceptable female activities (Lonsway et al., 2002). With the increasing number of women joining the profession, issues regarding the impact of the job, its stressors, and the effect of a male dominated subculture on women have come to the fore. Historically, research into police stress is most often descriptive or anecdotal. To adequately understand, predict, and control stress among the law enforcement officers, particularly among female officers, more empirical study is necessary.

To this end, this mixed-method research surveyed 271 officers in Florida to examine if a difference exists in critical life events (sources of stress) experienced by law enforcement officers. The instrument used was a modified version of Sewell's Law Enforcement Critical Life Events Scale (LECLES) survey. The LECLES is a 144-item instrument that examines police stress based on individual events (Sewell, 1983).

The sample for this study was drawn from a population of 734 municipal, county, and state law enforcement officers in the Tampa Bay, Florida, area each of whom had a minimum of 5 years of active law enforcement experience. Officers were administered a Likert-type attitudinal scale to rate their perceived stress on a scale of 0 to 5, or none to very high.

Agency Profile

Respondents were drawn from five agencies within the Tampa Bay each of which was accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation Law Enforcement Agencies at the national level or the Florida Commission Law Enforcement Accreditation (or both). On The successful accomplishment, the accreditation process ensures that these agencies comply with a set of law enforcement standards meeting all the professionally recognized criteria.

Site 1: Florida Highway Patrol

The Florida Highway Patrol is Florida's largest traffic law agency. In March 2002, the Florida Highway Patrol had over 1,770 troopers (sworn law enforcement officers) and 500 non sworn staff. At the time of study, Troop F of Florida Highway Patrol, located in the Tampa Bay area, was commanded by a female major in charge of charged with managing the operations in the nine counties comprising the troop's geographic district. Troop F is posed of 96 male and 16 female troopers. Twelve of the females met the minimum 5-year requirement (FHP, personal e-mail, November 14, 2005).

Site 2: Lakeland Police Department

The city of Lakeland covers approximately 70.5 square miles with a population of over 90,000 permanent residents. In November 2005, the LPD authorized to have 234 law enforcement officers, although, at that time, it had only 221 officer positions filled: 193 males and 28 females (LPD, personal e- mail, January 3, 2006). There were 54 sworn supervisory personnel. The LPD command leadership included one chief of police and three assistant police chiefs (one of whom was a female). The total number of females that had a minimum of 5 years of active law enforcement experience was not available.

Site 3: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office

Sarasota County covers approximately 620 square miles, with a population of over 360,000 permanent residents, approximately 81,000 seasonal residents, and over 1. …

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