Police officer
Overview
A police officer is a warranted
Warrant (law)
Most often, the term warrant refers to a specific type of authorization; a writ issued by a competent officer, usually a judge or magistrate, which permits an otherwise illegal act that would violate individual rights and affords the person executing the writ protection from damages if the act is...

 employee of a police force
Police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, "officer" is the formal name of the lowest police rank; in many other countries "officer" is a generic term not specifying a particular rank, and the lowest rank is often "constable". Police officers are generally charged with the apprehension of criminals and the prevention and detection of crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

, and the maintenance of public order. Police officers may be sworn to an oath
Police Oath
It is usual for Police officers take an oath to uphold the law. The following is a selection from different countries.- Hong Kong :English version according to Chapter 232, schedule 1, Laws of Hong KongI, .. ....

, and have the power to arrest
Arrest
An arrest is the act of depriving a person of his or her liberty usually in relation to the purported investigation and prevention of crime and presenting into the criminal justice system or harm to oneself or others...

 people and detain them for a limited time, along with other duties and powers.

Some police officers may also be trained in special duties, such as counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism is the practices, tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, militaries, police departments and corporations adopt to prevent or in response to terrorist threats and/or acts, both real and imputed.The tactic of terrorism is available to insurgents and governments...

, surveillance
Surveillance
Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people. It is sometimes done in a surreptitious manner...

, child protection, VIP
Very Important Person
A Very Important Person, or VIP is a person who is accorded special privileges due to his or her status or importance.Examples include celebrities, heads of state/heads of government, major employers, high rollers, politicians, high-level corporate officers, wealthy individuals, or any other...

 protection
Protective security units
Protective security units typically provide policing, security, intelligence and bodyguard services for Sovereigns and Politicians. They can be contrasted with security services which provide protective security intelligence such as Protective security units typically provide policing, security,...

, and investigation techniques into major crime, including fraud
Fraud
In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation...

, rape
Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

, murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

 and drug trafficking.
Responsibilities of a police officer are varied, and may differ greatly from within one political context to another.
Encyclopedia
A police officer is a warranted
Warrant (law)
Most often, the term warrant refers to a specific type of authorization; a writ issued by a competent officer, usually a judge or magistrate, which permits an otherwise illegal act that would violate individual rights and affords the person executing the writ protection from damages if the act is...

 employee of a police force
Police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, "officer" is the formal name of the lowest police rank; in many other countries "officer" is a generic term not specifying a particular rank, and the lowest rank is often "constable". Police officers are generally charged with the apprehension of criminals and the prevention and detection of crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

, and the maintenance of public order. Police officers may be sworn to an oath
Police Oath
It is usual for Police officers take an oath to uphold the law. The following is a selection from different countries.- Hong Kong :English version according to Chapter 232, schedule 1, Laws of Hong KongI, .. ....

, and have the power to arrest
Arrest
An arrest is the act of depriving a person of his or her liberty usually in relation to the purported investigation and prevention of crime and presenting into the criminal justice system or harm to oneself or others...

 people and detain them for a limited time, along with other duties and powers.

Some police officers may also be trained in special duties, such as counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism is the practices, tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, militaries, police departments and corporations adopt to prevent or in response to terrorist threats and/or acts, both real and imputed.The tactic of terrorism is available to insurgents and governments...

, surveillance
Surveillance
Surveillance is the monitoring of the behavior, activities, or other changing information, usually of people. It is sometimes done in a surreptitious manner...

, child protection, VIP
Very Important Person
A Very Important Person, or VIP is a person who is accorded special privileges due to his or her status or importance.Examples include celebrities, heads of state/heads of government, major employers, high rollers, politicians, high-level corporate officers, wealthy individuals, or any other...

 protection
Protective security units
Protective security units typically provide policing, security, intelligence and bodyguard services for Sovereigns and Politicians. They can be contrasted with security services which provide protective security intelligence such as Protective security units typically provide policing, security,...

, and investigation techniques into major crime, including fraud
Fraud
In criminal law, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation...

, rape
Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

, murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

 and drug trafficking.

Duties and functions

Responsibilities of a police officer are varied, and may differ greatly from within one political context to another. Typical duties relate to keeping the peace, law enforcement, protection of persons and property, and the investigation of crimes. Officers are expected to respond to a variety of situations that may arise while they are on duty. Rules and guidelines dictate how an officer should behave within the community, and in many contexts restrictions are placed on what the uniformed officer wears. In some countries, rules and procedures dictate that a police officer is obliged to intervene in a criminal incident, even if they are off-duty. Police officers in nearly all countries retain their lawful powers, while off duty.

In the community

In the majority of Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 legal systems, the major role of the police is to maintain order, keeping the peace through surveillance of the public, and the subsequent reporting and apprehension of suspected violators of the law. They also function to discourage crimes through high-visibility policing, and most police forces have an investigative capability. Police have the legal authority to arrest, usually granted by magistrates. Police officers also respond to emergency calls, along with routine community policing.

Police are often used as an emergency service
Emergency service
Emergency services are organizations which ensure public safety and health by addressing different emergencies. Some agencies exist solely for addressing certain types of emergencies whilst others deal with ad hoc emergencies as part of their normal responsibilities...

 and may provide a public safety function at large gatherings, as well as in emergencies, disasters, search and rescue
Search and rescue
Search and rescue is the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger.The general field of search and rescue includes many specialty sub-fields, mostly based upon terrain considerations...

 situations, and Road Traffic Collisions
Car accident
A traffic collision, also known as a traffic accident, motor vehicle collision, motor vehicle accident, car accident, automobile accident, Road Traffic Collision or car crash, occurs when a vehicle collides with another vehicle, pedestrian, animal, road debris, or other stationary obstruction,...

. To provide a prompt response in emergencies, the police often coordinate their operations with fire and emergency medical services. In some countries, individuals serve jointly as police officers as well as firefighters (creating the role of Fire Police
Fire Police
Fire Police are Volunteer Fire Brigade/Company members who have sworn police powers. They receive special police training and are responsible for traffic control, crowd control, fire and incident scene security, apparatus security, and station security during calls for service.They also assist...

) or paramedics. In many countries, there is a common emergency service number that allows the police, firefighters, or medical services to be summoned to an emergency. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 have outlined command procedures, for the use in major emergencies or disorder. The Gold Silver Bronze command structure
Gold Silver Bronze command structure
A gold–silver–bronze command structure is used by emergency services of the United Kingdom to establish a hierarchical framework for the command and control of major incidents and disasters...

 is a system set up to improve communications between ground based officers and the control room, typically, Bronze Commander would be a senior officer on the ground, coordinating the efforts in the center of the emergency, Silver Commanders would be positioned in an 'Incident Control Room' erected to improve better communications at the scene, and a Gold Commander who would be in the Control Room.

Police are also responsible for reprimanding minor offenders by issuing citations
Summons
Legally, a summons is a legal document issued by a court or by an administrative agency of government for various purposes.-Judicial summons:...

 which typically may result in the imposition of fines, particularly for violations of traffic
Traffic
Traffic on roads may consist of pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars and other conveyances, either singly or together, while using the public way for purposes of travel...

 law. Traffic enforcement is often and effectively accomplished by police officers on motorcycle
Motorcycle
A motorcycle is a single-track, two-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycles vary considerably depending on the task for which they are designed, such as long distance travel, navigating congested urban traffic, cruising, sport and racing, or off-road conditions.Motorcycles are one of the most...

s—called motor officers, these officers refer to the motorcycles they ride on duty as simply motors. Police are also trained to assist persons in distress, such as motorists whose car has broken down and people experiencing a medical emergency. Police are typically trained in basic first aid
First aid
First aid is the provision of initial care for an illness or injury. It is usually performed by non-expert, but trained personnel to a sick or injured person until definitive medical treatment can be accessed. Certain self-limiting illnesses or minor injuries may not require further medical care...

 such as CPR.

In addition, some park ranger
Park ranger
A park ranger or forest ranger is a person entrusted with protecting and preserving parklands – national, state, provincial, or local parks. Different countries use different names for the position. Ranger is the favored term in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Within the United...

s are commissioned as law enforcement officers and carry out a law-enforcement role within national park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

s and other back-country wilderness and recreational areas, whereas Military police
Military police
Military police are police organisations connected with, or part of, the military of a state. The word can have different meanings in different countries, and may refer to:...

 perform law enforcement functions within the military.

Entry and promotion qualifications

In most countries, candidates for the police force must have completed some formal education. Increasing numbers of people are joining the police force who possess tertiary education
Tertiary education
Tertiary education, also referred to as third stage, third level, and post-secondary education, is the educational level following the completion of a school providing a secondary education, such as a high school, secondary school, university-preparatory school...

and in response to this many police forces have developed a "fast-track" scheme whereby those with university degrees spend two to three years as a Constable
Constable
A constable is a person holding a particular office, most commonly in law enforcement. The office of constable can vary significantly in different jurisdictions.-Etymology:...

 before receiving promotion to higher ranks, such as Sergeant
Sergeant
Sergeant is a rank used in some form by most militaries, police forces, and other uniformed organizations around the world. Its origins are the Latin serviens, "one who serves", through the French term Sergent....

s or Inspector
Inspector
Inspector is both a police rank and an administrative position, both used in a number of contexts. However, it is not an equivalent rank in each police force.- Australia :...

s. (Officers who work within investigative divisions or plainclothes are not necessarily of a higher rank but merely have different duties.) Police officers are also recruited from those with experience in the military or security services. In the United States state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

 laws may codify state-wide qualification standards regarding age, education, criminal record, and training but in other places requirements are set by local police agencies. Each local Police agency has different requirements.

Promotion is not automatic and usually requires the candidate to pass some kind of examination, interview board or other selection procedure. Although promotion normally includes an increase in salary
Salary
A salary is a form of periodic payment from an employer to an employee, which may be specified in an employment contract. It is contrasted with piece wages, where each job, hour or other unit is paid separately, rather than on a periodic basis....

, it also brings with it an increase in responsibility and for most, an increase in administrative paperwork. There is no stigma attached to this, as experienced line patrol officers are highly regarded.

Dependent upon each agency, but generally after completing two years of service, officers may also apply for specialist positions, such as detective
Detective
A detective is an investigator, either a member of a police agency or a private person. The latter may be known as private investigators or "private eyes"...

, police dog
Police dog
A police dog, often referred to as a "K-9 dog" in some areas , is a dog that is trained specifically to assist police and other law-enforcement personnel in their work...

 handler, mounted police
Mounted police
Mounted police are police who patrol on horseback or camelback. They continue to serve in remote areas and in metropolitan areas where their day-to-day function may be picturesque or ceremonial, but they are also employed in crowd control because of their mobile mass and height advantage and...

 officer, motorcycle officer, water police
Water police
Water police, also called harbour patrols, port police, marine/maritime police, nautical patrols, bay constables or river police, are police officers, usually a department of a larger police organisation, who patrol in water craft...

 officer, or firearms officer (in countries where police are not routinely armed).

In some countries such as in Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, police ranks may also be supplemented through conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

, similar to national service
National service
National service is a common name for mandatory government service programmes . The term became common British usage during and for some years following the Second World War. Many young people spent one or more years in such programmes...

 in the military. Qualifications may thus be relaxed or enhanced depending on the target mix of conscripts. In Singapore
Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, for example, conscripts face tougher physical requirements in areas such as eyesight, but are less stringent with minimum academic qualification requirements. Some police officers join as volunteers, who again may do so via differing qualification requirements.

Police pay

In some societies, police officers are paid relatively well compared to other occupations; their pay depends on what rank they are within their police force and how many years service they have.

Line of duty deaths

Line of duty deaths are deaths which occur while an officer is conducting his or her appointed duties. Despite the increased risk of being a victim of a homicide, automobile accidents are the most common cause of officer deaths. Officers are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents because of their large amount of time spent conducting vehicle patrols, or directing traffic, as well as their work outside their vehicles alongside or on the roadway, or in dangerous pursuits. Officers killed by suspects make up a smaller proportion of deaths. In the U.S. in 2005, 156 line of duty deaths were recorded of which 44% were from assaults on officers, 35% vehicle related (only 3% during vehicular pursuits) and the rest from other causes: heart attacks during arrests/foot pursuits, diseases contracted either from suspects' body fluids or, more rarely, emergency blood transfusions after being shot or stabbed, accidental gun discharges, falls, and drownings.

Police officers who die in the line of duty, especially those who die from the actions of suspects or in accidents or heart attacks, are often given elaborate funerals, attended by large numbers of fellow officers. Their families may also be entitled to special pensions. Fallen officers are often remembered in public memorials, such as the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., at Judiciary Square, honors the nearly 19,000 U.S. law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty throughout history. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund was established by former U.S...

 in the U.S., the National Police Memorial
National Police Memorial
The National Police Memorial is a memorial in central London, commemorating about 4000 police officers killed in the course of their duties in the United Kingdom. It was designed by Lord Foster of Thames Bank and Per Arnoldi and unveiled in 2005...

 in the U.K. and the Scottish Police Memorial, at the Scottish Police College
Scottish Police College
The Scottish Police College, based at Tulliallan Castle, in Kincardine-on-Forth, provides basic training to all new recruits to the Scottish Police Forces....

.

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, in the 10 years from April 2000 there were 143 line of duty deaths: 54 in road accidents travelling to or from duty, 46 in road accidents on duty, 23 from natural causes on duty, 15 from criminal acts, and 5 in other accidents. (In the United Kingdom, police do not normally carry firearms.)

The Singapore Police Force
Singapore Police Force
The Singapore Police Force is the main agency tasked with maintaining law and order in the city-state. Formerly known as the Republic of Singapore Police , it has grown from an 11-man organisation to a 38,587 strong force...

 registered just over 100 deaths in a century up to the year 2000. There have been 28 New Zealand police officers killed by criminal act since 1890. Despite perceived dangers, policing has never been listed above number ten as one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. In terms of deaths per capita, driver-sales work such as food delivery is a more dangerous profession than being a police officer, although some people say police work is more dangerous in some larger U.S. cities than foreign military deployment
Military deployment
Military deployment is the movement of armed forces and their logistical support infrastructure around the world.-United States:The United States Military defines the term as follows:...

 (e.g. during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, "early out" programs in certain cities were offered to recruits as alternatives to Vietnam deployment, but many soldiers chose Vietnam, figuring their chances of survival would be better).

Indicators

The actual presence of stress in police work is well documented and evidenced by certain statistics. Researchers typically use suicide, divorce and alcoholism rates as three key indexes of stress in a group of people. These factors paint a compelling picture of police officers demonstrating signs of significant stress, for example:
  • A study in the United States, by National Surveillance of Police Suicide Study (NSOPS), showed 141 suicides in 2008 and 143 in 2009. This yields a suicide rate of 17/100,000, a figure that holds up under scrutiny and is consistent with CDC/NOMS data. The overall suicide rate in the United States was 11.3 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. There is some speculation or controversy that this official rate may understate the actual rate as it is often other police officers that report facts that lead to a cause of death determination, and death benefits, institutional image, and other factors may be incentives to misreport incident facts. It is speculated that some suicides are reported by fellow officers as accidents or as deaths in the line of duty perpetrated by unknown assailants. Also, many jurisdictions simply don't keep suicide statistics. Even though the information is incomplete, the raw numbers are highly compelling that police officers are much more likely to commit suicide than other occupations. However there is still controversy in the interpretation of these statistics. When comparisons are made within age, gender, and racial cohorts, the differences are much less dramatic. Although suicides may be notably more prevalent among police, it is not clear whether police suicides are the result of work stress or the consequence of other variables, such as the influence of a subculture of violence
  • Police officers are much more likely to experience interpersonal relationship problems. Relationship problems are most dramatically demonstrated by the divorce rate among police officers, which is usually reported as being the second highest of all occupations. However in a 2009 study, the divorce rates of law enforcement personnel were compared with the rates for other occupations, where data was analyzed from the 2000 U.S. Census. The results of the analysis indicate that the divorce rate for law enforcement personnel is lower than that of the general population, even after controlling for demographic and other job-related variables. The propensity to domestic violence is also thought to be higher for police officers than the general population, though the statistics are very fuzzy and controversial. Police officers also seem to have relationship problems at work, typically with superiors or with political oversight, though the evidence is largely anecdotal and controversial.
  • Alcoholism is considered another aberrant statistic for police officers. Although the statistics are fuzzy, clinically treated alcohol addiction rates are usually calculated to be about twice as high for police officers than for the general population in the United States. In contrast, statistics documenting alcohol abuse are less precise. Rates for arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol, or DUI or DWI, are somewhat higher for police officers than for other drivers, but the statistics are not widely trusted outside of the insurance industry since it is other police officers that make DUI arrests. Some departments and even some individual officers tend to hold police officers to a higher behavioral and ethical standard while others will recognize a 'blue line' behind which those within the 'brotherhood' are not held to the same standards as the rest of society. Despite the controversies in the interpretation of the statistics, it is generally considered evident that police officers are more susceptible to alcohol abuse than other occupations. The same conclusions are usually made regarding the police abuse of other substances, though the statistics are even less accurate, and even though the higher rates of substance abuse may be due in part to the more ready access to drugs and the more permissive atmosphere 'behind the blue line' rather than to occupational stresses.


Hans Selye, the foremost researcher in stress in the world, said that police work is "the most stressful occupation in America even surpassing the formidable stresses of air traffic control."

Other researchers, though, claim that police officers are more psychologically healthy than the general population. Police officers are increasingly more educated, more likely to engage in a regular program of exercise and to consume less alcohol and tobacco, and increasingly family-oriented. Healthy behavior patterns typically observed at entry training usually continue throughout the career of an officer. Even though the presence of occupation related stress seems to be well documented, it is highly controversial. Many within the law enforcement industry claim the propagation of incorrect suicide, divorce, and substance abuse statistics comes from people or organizations with political or social agendas, and that the presence of these beliefs within the industry makes it hard for health workers to help police officers in need of treatment to deal with the fear of negative consequences from police work which is necessary to enable police officers to develop a healthy expectancy of success in treatment.

Sources

Even though the presence of occupational stresses appear to be well documented, though not without controversy, the causes of workplace stress are comparatively unclear or even a matter of conjecture.

Although individual policemen and institutional public relations typically cite the risks of being killed in the line of duty as the predominant source of stress for individual policemen, there is significant controversy regarding the causes of personal workplace stress due to the fact that the actual risk of being killed is so small relative to other occupations.

It is charged that the myth of the high risks of occupational mortality connected with police work is often propagated by the law enforcement community as part of its institutional advancement and a central element in its public relations. Actual homicides of police are comparatively rare, but the reports of such incidents are typically reported in the press along with quotes by police officials or police officer family members stressing the notion that police officers 'put their lives on the line for the public' or 'risk their lives everyday', making it look like individual policemen routinely place themselves in mortal danger for low pay and little recognition, and that the view of police work as 'combat' is the source of police occupational stress indications.

Another explanation often advanced is the idea that police officers will undergo some traumatic experience in their police work that they never recover from, leading to suicide, divorce, etc. However, since the effects of such traumatic stresses is readily recognized, there are usually proactive programs in place to help individual police officers deal with the psychological effects of a traumatic event. Unfortunately, there is some evidence that such programs are actually ineffective, especially group therapies, may re-traumatize the participant, weaken coping mechanisms, and contribute to the development of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Observations where police officers and other emergency workers, such as firemen, experience the same traumatic event, it is more likely that the police officer will have difficulty dealing with the long term emotional effects of the traumatic event. On this observation, some of the academic literature suggests that along these lines the causes of occupational stress is more complex for police officers. Stress in police work is often present in other occupations, but not in an ongoing capacity. One line of thinking is that the individual stresses of police work produce a condition of chronic stress. Police officers encounter stressors in call after call which sap their emotional strength. Debilitation from this daily stress accumulates making officers more vulnerable to traumatic incidents and normal pressures of life. The weakening process is often too slow to see; neither a person nor his friends are aware of the damage being done. The effects of chronic stresses is two-fold:
  • First, prolonged stress causes people to regress. Their psychological growth reverses, and they become more immature. They rapidly become more childish and primitive, much like a person being sick for several days becoming more irritable and childish in its demands on other people.
  • Second, chronic stress numbs people's sensitivity. They can't stand to continually see human misery. They must stop feeling or they won't survive. The mind has this defense mechanism so people can continue working in horrible situations. If they kept their normal sensitivity, they would fall apart. As they become insensitive to their own suffering, they become insensitive to the suffering of others. When treated with indignity, they lose not only a sense of their own dignity but also the dignity of others. The pain of others stops bothering them, and they are no longer bothered when they hurt others.


The daily work of a police officer involves certain paradoxes and conflicts which may be difficult to deal with, the predominant examples are
  • Any interaction with a member of the public, whether socially or officially, such as in a traffic stop, involves a non-trivial risk of verbal abuse or physical harm. Treating a person with common respect or normal social graces requires the officer to be off guard and unprepared for an attack. Being on guard for an attack and treating every interpersonal situation with safety procedures and affirmative commands makes the police officer appear cynical, brutal, and detached, and limits his actual effectiveness with the public. Considering someone a friend or an enemy produces opposite mental states, an unnatural no-win situation
    No-win situation
    A no-win situation, also called a "lose-lose" situation, is one where a person has choices, but no choice leads to a net gain. For example, if an executioner offers the condemned the choice of dying by being hanged, shot, or poisoned, since all choices lead to death, the condemned is in a no-win...

     engendering chronic stress.
  • A police department is both a professional and military organization, and these two aspects oppose each other. As a professional, he is considered to be an expert in his field and is expected to use his expertise for the good of his public. He has much discretion in how he serves the people who call upon him. However, the dangers and complexities of the work require a military structure of the organization and a military leaning in the training. Although some are actually educated, all police officers are well trained. Policies, regulations, and procedures cover every facet of police work. Everything is expected to be done by the book with substantial repercussions, including civil and criminal liability, for varying from the expectations of operating procedures. Often the facts of a situation require a course of action that does not follow procedures. If he follows procedures exactly, he knows he won't fully help the public, and the public will think he is shirking his responsibility. If the officer follows his own judgment, he is taking a risk. The community and department expect officers to use judgment, but when they do, there is a danger they will be disciplined; another unnatural no-win situation engendering chronic stress.
  • Police officers tend to become socially isolated. The reasons given for this isolation are varied and mostly anecdotal. One theory is that police work is not balanced. Most occupations involve a combination of good and bad results. In police work, almost everything is bad, and everybody you deal with is perceived either inherently bad or at least foolish. Another is that police officers develop a 'street wisdom' and by fiat possess a degree of authority that tends to make them perceive themselves as being morally superior to the rest of society. Whatever the reason, the public that the police deal with clearly perceive it and tend to reinforce the divide. Classically when a group of people are isolated, they become disoriented and confused. Their behavior changes drastically. Ironically an isolated class are usually the ones who are losing real world wisdom and tend to judge the world incorrectly from a very limited perspective, leading to interpersonal mistakes and more chronic stress.


A more colloquial view looks at specific sources of stress in police work. The sources of stress most often actually cited are:
  • The fear of killing someone in the line of duty.
  • Having your partner or somebody else that you feel at least partly responsible for killed in the line of duty.
  • Lack of support by the department or superiors.
  • The scheduling of work and irregular work demands resulting in a disruption of family time or family events or rituals.
  • The daily grind of dealing with the stupidity of the public, or the "asshole factor".


Other more academic studies have produced similar lists, but may include items that the more colloquial surveys do not reveal, such as 'exposure to neglected, battered, or dead children'

Again, the actual fear of occupational death or physical harm is not high on the list of stress sources.

There have been numerous academic studies on the specific sources of police stress, and most conclude organizational culture and workload as the key issues in officer stress. Traumatic events are usually concluded to not be of sufficient scope or prevalence to account for prevalence of suicide, divorce, and substance abuse abnormalities.

Personality theories

Some of the more esoteric, least documented or cited, and more longstanding theories for police stress symptoms involves the interaction of the specifics of police work with the personalities of individual police officers. There has been a raging debate on the fringes of psychiatry as to whether there is something about police work that causes psychiatric symptomology and personality disorders or whether there are certain personalities susceptible to disorders that are attracted to police work. There are four general possibilities:
  • There is something about police work, the social structure, the work atmosphere, etc., which causes stresses or presents traumas that cause personality or psychiatric disorders resulting in symptoms such as suicide, divorce, violence, substance abuse, etc. (the foundations of this possibility are outlined above)
  • There is one or more personality types or people with certain tendencies or proclivities who are susceptible of developing personality or psychiatric disorders, regardless of their occupation, who because of their personality or preferences are attracted to police work, and then display symptoms of stress or disorders.
  • There is a combination of the two.
  • Or there is a combination and synergistic interaction of the two.


There are personality traits that have been used to determine police applicant desirability, specifically:
  • openness
  • conscientiousness
  • extroversion
  • agreeableness
  • neuroticism


Personality traits considered undesirable include:
  • hostility
  • lack of impulse control
  • substance abuse
  • psychosis
  • paranoia


There are other personality traits that are specifically not desired for police work that are equally well documented. However, there has been relatively little academic work cited regarding the personality traits attracted to police work. The nature of personality traits of people attracted to police work tends to be a matter of conjecture and anecdotal observations. The personalities of people who are actually in police work tends to be different from that which is purported to be desired by police departments. Police officers tend to be isolated and suspicious, view expression of emotions as a weakness, and find it hard to trust and confide in others. For example, police officers are often viewed by the public to be domineering, narcissistic, authoritarian, physically oppressive, and basically the opposite of the personality traits most often cited as being desirable in a police officer. There are studies that suggest that people who take risks are attracted to police work. There is a corresponding theory that police officers actually tend to be people seeking security and stability and are attracted to the job for the steady government paycheck and government pension and adverse to the risks of business, sales, or other occupations. There is ample evidence that there is something in police work that alters personality.

The theory that there is an interaction between the personality attracted to the work and the work itself is mostly conjecture. For example, people attracted to police work are thought to crave the respect and authority that they expect with a badge, gun, uniform, and commission, but most of the people that police officers come in contact with do not respect them, and their authority is strongly regulated and limited by law, policies, and procedures, setting up a conflict resulting in chronic stress.

Abuse of power

Police officers have considerable powers and are often supported by authorities who oversee them if accused of wrongdoing.

Systematic cases

In dictatorial, corrupt, or weak states, police officers may carry out many criminal acts for the ruling regime with impunity. Examples are the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 secret police
Secret police
Secret police are a police agency which operates in secrecy and beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime....

 in Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, and the role of the police in the military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s. Institutional racism
Institutional racism
Institutional racism describes any kind of system of inequality based on race. It can occur in institutions such as public government bodies, private business corporations , and universities . The term was coined by Black Power activist Stokely Carmichael in the late 1960s...

 has been found in modern police forces.

Individual cases

Individual officers, or sometimes whole units, can be corrupt
Police corruption
Police corruption is a specific form of police misconduct designed to obtain financial benefits, other personal gain, or career advancement for a police officer or officers in exchange for not pursuing, or selectively pursuing, an investigation or arrest....

 or carry out various other forms of misconduct
Police misconduct
Police misconduct refers to inappropriate actions taken by police officers in connection with their official duties. Police misconduct can lead to a miscarriage of justice and sometimes involves discrimination...

; this occasionally happens in many forces, but is particularly problematic where police pay is very low unless supplemented by bribes. Police sometimes act with unwarranted brutality
Police brutality
Police brutality is the intentional use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially also in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer....

 when they overreact to confrontational situations, to extract a confession from a person they may or may not genuinely suspect of being guilty, or in other circumstances. Instances of racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 occur, even when the police force as a whole is not found to be racist.

See also

  • The Thin Blue Line (emblem)
    The Thin Blue Line (emblem)
    The Thin Blue Line is a symbol in use in the United States to show support for law enforcement officers.The conceptual "Thin Blue Line" is derived from the historical Thin Red Line.-Meaning:...

  • Cops (TV series)
    COPS (TV series)
    Cops is an American documentary/reality television series that follows police officers, constables, and sheriff's deputies during patrols and other police activities...

  • Fictional police officers
  • Field Training Officer
    Field Training Officer
    A Field Training Officer is an experienced or senior member of an organization who is responsible for the training and evaluation of a junior or probationary level member...

  • List of slang terms for police officers
  • Military police
    Military police
    Military police are police organisations connected with, or part of, the military of a state. The word can have different meanings in different countries, and may refer to:...

  • Peace officer
    Peace officer
    A law enforcement officer , in North America, is any public-sector employee or agent whose duties involve the enforcement of laws. The phrase can include police officers, prison officers, customs officers, immigration officers, bailiffs, probation officers, parole officers, auxiliary officers, and...

  • Police brutality
    Police brutality
    Police brutality is the intentional use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially also in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer....

  • Police rank
    Police rank
    - Australia :Generally, all police forces of Australia follow this rank structure with some individual state police forces have ranks differing slightly.Insignia of rank displayed on epaulette in italics and brackets...

  • Police procedural
    Police procedural
    The police procedural is a subgenre of detective fiction which attempts to convincingly depict the activities of a police force as they investigate crimes. While traditional detective novels usually concentrate on a single crime, police procedurals frequently depict investigations into several...

  • President Grover Cleveland
    Grover Cleveland
    Stephen Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms and therefore is the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents...

    —former Sheriff
    Sheriffs in the United States
    In the United States, a sheriff is a county official and is typically the top law enforcement officer of a county. Historically, the sheriff was also commander of the militia in that county. Distinctive to law enforcement in the United States, sheriffs are usually elected. The political election of...

     of Erie County, New York
    Erie County, New York
    Erie County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2010 census, the population was 919,040. The county seat is Buffalo. The county's name comes from Lake Erie, which in turn comes from the Erie tribe of American Indians who lived south and east of the lake before 1654.Erie...

  • President Theodore Roosevelt
    Theodore Roosevelt
    Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

    —Deputy Sheriff in the Dakota Territory
    Dakota Territory
    The Territory of Dakota was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 2, 1861, until November 2, 1889, when the final extent of the reduced territory was split and admitted to the Union as the states of North and South Dakota.The Dakota Territory consisted of...

    , and New York City Police Commissioner
    New York City Police Commissioner
    The New York City Police Commissioner is the head of the New York City Police Department, appointed by the Mayor of New York City. Governor Theodore Roosevelt, in one of his final acts before becoming Vice President of the United States in March 1901, signed legislation replacing the Police Board...


External links

  • Thin Blue Line Emblem
  • http://www.discoverpolicing.org
  • Metropolitan Police history
  • http://www.newscotlandyard.police.uk/foi/pdfs/other_information/corporate/operational_uniform_and_equipment.pdf
  • http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/publications/freedom-of-information/policy.asp?id=144
  • http://www.gmp.police.uk/mainsite/pages/pcsouniform.htm,ts=2
  • http://www.policelink.com
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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