Adverse Impacts of Organizational Stress on Officer Health and Wellness: Causes, Correlates, and Mitigation

Project Summary 

There is a long history of research on the causes and consequences of stress among law enforcement officers. Research on stress has demonstrated that officers’ perceptions of organizational stressors (e.g., administrative burdens, perceptions of unfairness, organizational politics, and work hours) are far more impactful than operational stressors (e.g., danger, exposure to violence, etc.). Moreover, organizational stressors have been linked to a variety of adverse outcomes including poor health, quality of life, and performance as well as psychological distress and sleep problems.

Our study is designed to enhance officer health and wellness and promote organizational effectiveness through gaining a greater understanding of the pathways between organizational stressors, individual (e.g. personality, resilience, etc.) and organizational characteristics (organizational support, etc.) and both negative and positive outcomes. We will also attempt to differentiate unique police and corrections officer stressors and identify individual and organizational stress mitigation strategies.

 

Methodology

We will employ a rigorous, multi-method approach to test the strength and directionality of relationships between variables in a comprehensive model we have proposed. Our broad data collection effort will include: 1) agency-supplied administrative data on officers, 2) an officer self-report instrument made up of a number of existing scales that have sufficient psychometric properties, and 3) physiological data from biometric devices for a subset of officers in both a law enforcement and jail/correctional agency.  The National Police Foundation is partnering with RTI International, an organization with significant expertise in biometrics, and will establish a high-level scientific advisory board to provide input and guidance throughout the course project which will be led by Dr. John Violanti (University at Buffalo).

Our analytical plan involves structural equation modeling, mixed-model trajectory analysis of physiological data, testing Granger Causality sequences, cluster analysis.  In addition, we will conduct focus groups with officers, supervisors, and commanders on potential stress mitigators, based on the findings of the model testing, and will employ qualitative analysis of these data.

 

Implications

Among our anticipated outcomes will be a more comprehensive, descriptive and causal model of organizational stress, stress moderators, and key outcomes delineating the role of organizational stress, coping, and social support in predicting key health, performance, and wellness outcomes, as well as exploration of potential mitigation strategies. The implications of this work may be substantial; by better explaining the pathways job demands and stressors, individual and organizational influences, and both adverse and positive outcomes, law enforcement agencies and their personnel will be able to focus on ways to mitigate negative outcomes and promote positive ones. This is particularly important in today’s law enforcement organizations given the increased national scrutiny and concerns over officer behavior in the field, and the additional stress that creates for the majority of officers who work very hard to ensure public safety and security.

 

Funding

This project is being funded by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, under Grant #:  2020-R2-CX-0005.

 

Points of Contact

Karen L. Amendola, Ph.D., Principal Investigator
Chief Behavioral Scientist
National Police Foundation
kamendola@policefoundation.org

Travis Taniguchi, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator
Research Director
National Police Foundaiton
ttaniguchi@policefoundation.org

 

Keywords

Police organizational stressors, biometric measures, mitigation of stress, correctional officer stress