Police Psychology into the 21st Century

By Martin I. Kurke; Ellen M. Scrivner | Go to book overview

Critical Incident Debriefings. Whereas most departments now offer critical incident debriefings for peace officers, the impact on spouses is often ignored. A second debriefing offered either to the spouse individually or in conjunction with the peace officer can significantly decrease spousal anxiety and prevent future difficulties. Such a debriefing may be critical to the spouse's providing ongoing emotional and job support to the peace officer.

Department Trainings. In addition to off-duty seminars and workshops, many departments offer courses on stress management, alcohol education, sensitivity and communication training, surviving a critical incident, and so on. Any training that assists the peace officer in developing a better wellness plan and stress management skills, or that improves his or her communication skills, will have an impact on the family.

Psychological Services. The majority of law enforcement agencies are now offering some form of individual, short-term counseling to peace officer employees. Some also offer marital or family therapy. A few offer assistance directly to spouses for individual treatment. The availability of psychological services will encourage peace officers and their families to obtain assistance should a problem arise. What happens to one commonly affects all.

Supervisor Trainings. By training supervisors in the early detection and appropriate referral of employee problems (both individual and family related), departments can catch potential problems before they escalate.

Research. It is in the best interest of each department to take responsibility for exploring the impact of job stress on peace officers and their families and for designing means of mitigating the impact wherever possible.


SUMMARY

For some peace officers, pursuing a career in law enforcement can have a potentially negative impact on the individual officer as well as his or her family. Job factors may negatively impact the peace officer directly, resulting in stress that may then be brought home to the family. These same job factors may also have a second, indirect influence in that they may encourage the peace officer to develop various coping mechanisms and adaptions to the job that have the potential to negatively impact family relationships. In addition, job stressors can also negatively impact law enforcement spouses and children directly. In such a case, the entire family begins to pay a toll in terms of marital discord, divorce, and strained or distant parent-child relationships. The cycle can then run full circle, with home problems po-

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