Stress Unleashed: The Tensions and Tribulations of Policing in America
The Birth of Policing: Early Challenges and Public Perceptions
With our country in a state of constant division, the feelings toward the police are no different. Being an officer can be a stressful job due to this variable, as well as many other reasons. Since the force was established in America, it has evolved but has become more stressful since its inception. Implementations and inventions in policing increased stress for police work. How has stress on police officers impeded their service in America? Body: The police force started in colonial America with the night watch and the sheriff. Many uprisings and riots occurred during the 18th century, which marked the first riots in America (a country that would witness more in its history).
Riots were the first major stressors of being a police officer. In addition, members of the first police force were not paid, making the job less desirable. Riots in the 19th century were one of the first instances that really increased the tensions between citizens and civilians. This everlasting clashing has caused the public to view officers as the bad guys. This is one stressor that affects their work. We aren’t equipped to deal with the overwhelming rudeness of victims and witnesses claiming, “I PAY YOUR SALARY!” Many officers deal with this on the daily. Although it may be unpleasant, officers can not do anything legally to stop the heckles, which builds up frustration. The public has had high expectations of the police force, but throughout America’s history, officers seemed to only make it on the news when they did something really bad.
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Stress Under the Badge: Modern Challenges and the Weight of Responsibility
Officers are hardly ever given the credit they deserve, nor does the public hear about their success. The way the public has viewed officers has hurt them mentally. The dangers of the police force are also a cause of stress. The implementation of new systems has caused the police force to become more dangerous than it was in colonial America.
The increase in gun ownership in the 1800s caused police to start carrying firearms of their own, which heightened the dangerousness of police work. As the job became more dangerous, stress levels increased similarly. Officers have been viewed in America as trigger-happy. The overwhelming levels of stress on an officer can affect the decisions he or she makes. Stress makes dangerous situations unclear, which makes for bad decisions. However, in the eyes of the public, the police just want an excuse to fatally shoot someone.
In reality, the police have a family they want to go back home to. Even if an officer does end up going home and not dying in that situation, they have a whole lot of stress built up after an incident of that nature. Stress from those types of situations may cause problems like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Officers who are suffering from PTSD due to traumatic events and stress that caused it almost always go untreated and will continue to work, which is a problem.
Another stressor was the invention of the automobile and telephone in the 1900s, which allowed officers to patrol wider areas and decrease their response time. People are not adapted to cope with long-time stressors such as long lives on patrol, driving in cramped and technologically demanding vehicles, and being surrounded by people who fear and dislike the fact that we observe them with the fact that we may take them to jail. (Sharps). When officers were given vehicles, they had a new set of responsibilities and new dangers.
Unspoken Strains: The Silent Crisis of Stress and Its Toll on Policing
Officers were also expected to multitask as they drove these machines. In recent years, the tension between police and minorities has caused precautions in the force. Through the misconduct of a few departments, the uproar caused uproar and race riots across the country. Since those days, officers have been perceived differently by minorities. The resentment that the public feels towards police has further isolated police officers.
In particular, this field has been hit by depression heavily, with the highest suicide rate among all occupations. The problem with stress building up in all areas of the police force is that, as a country, we haven’t addressed this problem and still don’t know what the appropriate actions to take on issues related to stress. Policing can be very stressful. This has caused policing to be one of the occupations with the most vacancies. The effects of stress make it less appealing and, therefore, cause many officers to seek other jobs instead. The police force is in need of another reform to address this issue.
- Walker, S., & Katz, C. M. (2021). The Police in America: An Introduction. McGraw-Hill.
- Violanti, J. M., & Aron, F. (1995). Police Stressors: Variations in Perception among Police Personnel. Journal of Criminal Justice, 23(3), 287-294.
- Goldstone, J. A. (2011). Understanding the Revolutions of 2011. World Politics, 63(3), 507-535.