The Importance of Stress Management Programs in Law Enforcement
Law enforcement officers (LEOs) are in a profession that is inherently stressful by nature. LEO’s encounter stress in a variety of situations - on calls, with peers and supervisors, and at home. Over time, as stress is left unchecked, unintended consequences occur. LEO’s begin to suffer from heath related and personal issues. Burnout sets in, resulting in poor job performance, and citizen complaints and use of force incidents can begin to increase. These are not new ideas. Law enforcement agencies have long known about stress related issues yet failed to properly prepare LEO’s for them. The solution is simple. Law enforcement agencies should have programs in place to assist LEO’s in recognizing and managing stress. Some believe these types of programs are not needed. The most common reason cited is the police culture itself. A stigma of weakness is attached to stress management programs. LEO’s are cynical and have privacy concerns. Law enforcement leaders and cities believe that these types of programs are too expensive to fund and that there is not a return on investment with these programs. However, LEO’s need to remember there are federal privacy laws in place under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that makes information confidential. Furthermore, leaders need to see the bigger picture. Programs may be expensive up front, but the long term picture is lower health care costs and a healthier workforce, mentally and physically. Stress management programs are critical for LEO’s to be healthy and successful, not only at work but at home as well. The time is now for agencies to begin investing more in the overall health of their employees, and reap the benefits.