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Burn Out - 'No One Can Imagine What the Costs Really Are'

NCJ Number
Police Magazine Volume: 5 Issue: 3 Dated: (May 1982) Pages: 9-11,14-18
B Daviss
Date Published
8 pages
An examination of the nature and causes of the stresses that lead to burnout among police officers is accompanied by examples of programs to deal with police burnout and suggested components of such programs.
Burnout begins when a police officer who was originally enthusiastic about the job begins to respond to the frustrations of police work in such ways as resenting superiors, drinking too much while off duty, experiencing problems at home, and ceasing to take the initiative on the job. Police Foundation data indicate that no more than 5 percent of the more than 17,000 police departments in the United States have begun programs that use staff psychologists, trained officers, or outside consultants to deal with stress. However, police psychologists agree that burnout is occurring sooner in a police officer's career than it has in the past. One police academy director estimates that about 15 percent of any police department's officers are in a burnout phase at any one time and that 5 to 7 percent are 'crispy critters' who are totally burned out. They account for most of the complaints against their department, including physical abuse, verbal abuse, and misuse of firearms. Some experts state that many automobile collisions and other job-related accidents are caused by officers who are working under stress or who are burned out. Burnout is costly in both time and money. The causes of burnout include increased stress due to the extensive and ofter conflicting demands made of police officers, the higher expectations among young police officers, excessive rules regarding minor matters, and a lack of clear performance standards. Police counselors recommed that a systematic departmental program to combat officer's strss include a behavioral profile of each officer, a system for responding to signs of burnout, a flexible counseling program for both groups and individuals, training in relaxation and other methods for handling physical stress, and efforts by police organizations to reduce stress caused by the organization. However, officers must feel the need to use these programs if they are to succeed. Major problems facing such programs are funding cutbacks and many administrators' lack of awareness of the benefits of stress training. No references are cited.