What Causes Stress in Law Enforcement?

What Causes Stress In Law EnforcementAt Garrett Counseling, we know that law enforcement officers endure a great deal of stress due to their jobs. Often, the public only hears a small portion of what these officers and their families endure. We wrote a series of blogs to both help the public understand the stress law enforcement officers face and to help those in law enforcement with the effects of stress. In blog one, our goal is to focus on what causes stress in law enforcement.

What Causes Stress in Law Enforcement?

The National Institute of Justice says that the most common causes of stress in law enforcement officers include:

  • Poor Management
  • Inadequate or Broken Equipment (Often due to a lack of funds)
  • Excessive Overtime (Both voluntary and involuntary)
  • Frequent Rotating Shifts (Often due to low staffing)
  • Regular Changes in Duties (Example: Spending time on a call pertaining to animal cruelty and the next intervening in a violent domestic dispute)

Other stressors for these officers may include:

  • Low Pay (Depending on the area; this can lead to the need for voluntary overtime)
  • Perceived Lack Of Support and/or Negative Attitudes Towards Law Enforcement
  • Threats To The Officer’s Health and Safety
  • Boredom (Possibly from working in an agency with limited options outside of patrol)
  • Need For Sudden Alertness and Mobilized Energy
  • Responsibility For The Lives Of Others
  • Continual Exposure To People In Distress/Pain
  • Controlling Emotions, Especially When Provoked

Los Angeles Police Department’s Behavioral Science Services division, the oldest and largest agency run, in-house mental health provider, states that the average police officer will be exposed to around 800 traumatic incidents during their career. By comparison, the average citizen might be exposed to three or fewer incidents. In addition to repeated exposure to trauma, officers often encounter victims of violent crimes, serious injury or death, child abuse, and neglect.

Garrett Counseling’s Clinical Director Ginger Caudell, LPC, says “I recommend that people slow down and be mindful of the complicated daily work and home life of law enforcement officers. While we, as a society, have all suffered greatly from the pandemic, our police and military members have the double stress of how their own families are in danger plus how all the many people they serve are in harm’s way, often by an unseen enemy. Slow down and be both thoughtful and intentional in your words and actions toward others. We are all in a confusing time in history so let cool heads prevail.”

Our mental health counselors in Huntsville, AL and our other locations have experience working with those in law enforcement. Contact us today at (256) 239-5662 or online.


This blog was written by Kristin Hurst, a mental health counselor at Garrett Counseling in Jacksonville, AL. Learn more about Kristin here.

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