Policing creates a culture that is unhealthy for the women and men in law enforcement, according to a 2012 study funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Buffalo, New York.
The study found that police officers suffer psychological and physical ailments at higher rates than the general public. Being exposed to “human misery and death” can cause psychological damage to officers, which leads to a higher degree of obesity, suicide, PTSD, sleeplessness and cancer, according to the report. There is also a disconnect between officers and the public they serve due to the long hours they spend at work amongst colleagues, the report says.
In another resent study by Pew Research Center, researchers found that there was also a disparity between White officers and Black officers over police shootings of unarmed suspects. Black officers were more likely to feel that protesters against police shootings were sincere about their desire to hold officers accountable for their actions, while White officers tend to be skeptical of protestor’s motivation.
The culture of stress on the job is having a negative effect on the quality of life for the people who serve. When asked, half of the officers of the Pew study said that they feel proud about their jobs, but half also say that their job makes them frustrated. Officers have a higher percentage of divorce than the general public.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health suggested implementing new training for officers in the police academy. Dr. John Violanti of the University of Buffalo study says that officers can be better prepared to cope with the stress of the job. However, there is no evidence yet of the effectiveness of preparedness training for officers suffering from on the job stress. The pressures of police work is having a negative impact on community members and police officers. It may be time to revisit the purpose and effectiveness of law enforcement.