Are the media and "civilized" society exacerbating psychological stress in police officers?
Today while reading one of my trade magazines, ema href="http://www.nationalpsychologist.com/"The National Psychologist,/a/em I came across a href="http://www.nationalpsychologist.com/articles/art_v16n3_3.htm" an interesting article /aon the heavy psychological impact that police shootings have on law enforcement officers (LEOs):br /br /blockquoteIt is well established that LEOs suffer an elevated incidence of stress-related problems (e.g., depression, alcohol and substance abuse, marital conflicts, divorce and suicide) with the negative effects impacting families and friends as well. br / br /When an LEO is involved in a shooting, whether as the target of an offender or as a line-of-duty shooter, there is unbridled attention devoted to the incident by news media and the public. br /br /It is commonplace for law enforcement agencies to require “administrative leave” (or something similar) while even a seemingly “clean shoot” is investigated. Media fan the flames and the burden of shooting someone (under any set of circumstances) results in profound stress./blockquote br /br /According to the article, our society also contributes to the stress of an officer involved in a shooting:br /br /blockquotePart of the problem is that our civilized society holds firmly to the notion that violence between people must not be countenanced (except in the commercial media!) This axiom applies even to LEOs who use any level of force, and most certainly deadly force, in the line of duty. The individual who must resort to taking the life of another person, even for the protection of self or others, has been reinforced to feel guilty and rendered incapable of finding psychological resolution of the relevant conflicts. br / br /Certainly LEOs differ in their resilience to stress as well as abilities and resources for coping and affect regulation. Nonetheless, the social framework applies a special filter for shooting incidents, making life difficult for any LEO who engages in a shooting incident./blockquotebr /br /Notice that the incident itself is not what makes the officer guilty and stressed, it is the media and public making their lives miserable. If even police officers are made to feel guilty for protecting the lives of citizens by our "don't defend yourself or anyone else" culture and media, I can't imagine how civilians who had to use force are made to feel after an incident in which they had to protect themselves or others. The article goes on to look at why officers are afraid to ask for psychological help, but maybe the real question is: "why is the officer treated as a pariah instead of a hero for protecting others from mayhem?" For if they were treated as a hero, or at least with some respect for doing their emjob,/em then maybe, they could resolve the shooting incident a whole lot faster or on their own without professional help.
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