Police Culture and Stress Levels
Police culture is normally influenced by several internal and external stress factors. The resulting police culture eventually promotes particular policing styles. This paper analyzes the elements of police culture, and highlights the significance of stress in law enforcement.
Isolation as the first element of police culture is largely linked to their limited contact with the public and the need to maintain secrecy as an integral component of their professionalism (Button, 2007, p. 153). Isolation in the police is critical in increasing internal police cohesion, while minimizing excessive public interaction that can compromise law enforcement due to deep emotional connection. Secondly, the need for control cultural element is important in the maintenance of law and order because it helps the police overcome stressful events or encounters (Crank, 2004, p. 174). The need for control and power is also essential in conflict resolution. Thirdly, the entitlement element is related to the officers’ perception of themselves as better, hence deserving more respect than civilians do. This superiority mindset in officers reinforces law compliance, as the public will avoid violating the laws because it would amount to disrespect, which might lead to arrest and prosecution. Fourthly, the loyalty element is essential in instilling discipline in officers, and enhancing cooperation amongst them. Loyalty also enables police officers take care of one another, especially in threatening situations. Fifthly, the suspicion element usually enables the police handle issues carefully and embraces a preventative approach to maintaining law and order (Button, 2007, p. 153). Finally, the rugged individualism cultural element involves valuing independence/autonomy, and the suppression of one’s emotions to encourage right reasoning and denying one’s vulnerability. It enhances an officer’s decision-making competency and raises their self-esteem, thereby increasing their bravery in tackling challenging issues to ensure maintenance of law and order.
Police stress can have both positive and negative outcomes on the police themselves and the people they are protecting. Mild forms of stress can increase an officer’s sense of awareness or alertness, thereby leading to improved performance due to their ability to adjust to problems. However, high stress levels can adversely interfere with the police officer’s performance as it leads to officer’s burnout or emotional exhaustion. Severe stress levels can push officers to alcohol and drug abuse, or even commit suicide.
Button, M. (2007). Security officers and policing: Powers, culture and control in the governance of private space. Aldershot, England: Ashgate.
Crank, J. P. (2004). Understanding police culture. Burlington: Elsevier Science.