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Using Collaborative, Mixed-Methods Research to Determine Professional Self-care's Relation to Burnout Among Police Officers at a Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Site

NCJ Number
Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology Volume: 36 Issue: 3 Dated: January 2021 Pages: 423-435
Emma C. Lathan ; Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling ; James “Tres” Stefurak ; Jessica Duncan
Date Published
January 2021
13 pages

The current study used interagency, multidisciplinary collaboration and a mixed-method design to examine professional self-care as a mechanism to combat burnout among police officers (n = 331) at a Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) site in the southeastern region of the United States.


Burnout, an occupational syndrome characterized by feelings of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and diminished personal accomplishment, is highly prevalent among police officers, perhaps as a result of regular and repeated exposure to job-related stressful events. Burnout might be especially problematic for officers working with sexual assault victims, as this sensitive work requires officers to be exposed to trauma while conducting trauma-informed, victim-centered investigations. The current study found that professional self-care better predicted each component of burnout than did exposure to job-related trauma, being injured on-duty, number of critical incident types experienced, and years on the force. Specifically, engagement in professional development activities best predicted reduced emotional exhaustion and depersonalization of victims. Officers’ qualitative responses supported quantitative survey data, with 48 percent requesting an increase in professional self-care opportunities (e.g., more trainings, professional support) offered by their organization. Although the nature of policing often precludes a route to reducing officers’ exposure to job-related stressful events, findings suggest that law enforcement organizations can positively impact officer burnout by enhancing professional self-care and broadly providing critical professional development experiences. (publisher abstract modified)