Contents & Abstracts
Editorial : Police
by John M. Violanti
The present study investigated the number of traumatic events experienced by 187 police recruits and 177 serving police. The two groups were administered the Traumatic Stress Schedule (Norris 1990) and the frequency of ten categories of trauma were recorded. Field staff reported more lifetime events and significantly more lifetime exposure to assault, disasters, hazards and motor vehicle accidents, but fewer motor accidents in the previous year than recruits. Male recruits reported significantly more lifetime assaults than females and females reported high lifetime levels of sexual assaults. Surprisingly, both female and male recruits reported similar high lifetime experiences of other events. It is suggested that the number of traumatic events experienced as young adults is an important variable in determining vulnerability to developing psychological symptoms if exposed to future trauma.
This paper describes the transient psychological responses that may develop in police officers in response to the handling of human remains and death investigation. It is based on my 28-year study of human tragedy, as pathologist and police psychiatrist. It is a summary of personal observations made during 3900+ tragedy-related medicolegal autopsies, over 3200 associated death scene investigations, and 15 years of long-term informal follow-up of many hundreds of police officers with whom I worked those death scenes. This paper describes, in a totally anonymous way, thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and fears shared with me by these police officers.
Suicide in policing has reached epidemic proportions. Departments are often left in the wake of trauma and grief, unable or unwilling to deal with the suicide of an officer. This article provides practical guidance to departments to assist them in dealing with the aftermath of a suicide. Methods of interdepartmental communications, procedures, and debriefing are discussed. A model designed for suicide postvention is also presented.
Police officers perform work events and situations that are generally routine and arise from either the bureaucratic law enforcement organization or working in the field. Four major categories describe the nature of these events and their source. A review of the literature suggests that an additional classification of work events and situations may be warranted. More specifically, due to the potentially negative psychological effects of traumatic incidents on police officers' psychological well being and the specialized mental health services provided following exposure to a traumatic incident, these incidents characterize an additional classification of events for law enforcement. This paper reviews the relevant literature pertaining to law enforcement stress, traumatic incidents in law enforcement, and suggests such incidents can be reconceptualized as a separate category of stressful work events and situations experienced by law enforcement personnel.
The present study examined the relationship between demographic variables and the number of traumatic incidents reported among a sample of police officers. A sample of 233 police officers completed a survey requesting demographic information and assessing their exposure to traumatic incidents. Age, gender, race, years of police experience, and section assignment were significantly correlated with fewer reported traumatic incidents. Multiple regression analysis results suggest that only age and the section assignment of the officer was a significant predictor of fewer traumatic incidents, while prior military service experience predicted more traumatic incidents. Results are discussed relative to mental health services provided to police officers exposured to traumatic incidents.
Posttraumatic intervention protocols have come a long way in policing. This article challenges reliance on pathogenic intervention approaches which may script police officers into traumatic symptoms. By scripting , we mean that pathogenic methods, rigid techniques, and strong group participation can cognitively re-structure an individual's perceptions about trauma symptoms. A pathogenic model that not only assumes trauma symptomatology but also provides an immediate, rigidly defined remedy is thus very attractive to many police agencies. These approaches may well overwhelm the personal positive strength, resiliency, and potential of officers for growth and trauma resolution.
Massey University, New Zealand
Last changed October