By Saul Roth
I was a corrections officer for two years on two different correction departments, during which I experienced a similar administrative structure in corrections as I have in the police department. Specifically, the lack of information filtering down from the administration to the officers is a cause for stress. Officers need current information to perform their jobs because, even when they do not receive the information, they are often held accountable for their results. Organizational fairness and justice is also a source of stress. Having someone promoted or given a choice assignment because personal connections with is unfair. This is a problem in many types of workplaces. When individuals are often given bad assignments or unjustly punished, this is a sign of an organization with poor justice (Lambert, Hogan, & Allen, 2006).
VII. Family Stress
New police officers and their families often do not anticipate a work-family conflict when the new officer is starting his or her career. New male officers, however, receive more support from their families in the beginning of their careers than new female officers. In many jurisdictions, the rate of pay for new police officers is proportionate to the education required to begin the position and thus, many families start out on this venture with high expectations. The reality of a police career, however, will not settle in with the family until the officer graduates from the academy and is put out on patrol (Ryan et al., 2001).
Most families nowadays live in stressful environments. Unlike the last generation, many families are dual-income households. Howard, Boles, and Donofrio (2004) stated “Over 60 percent of married women with at least one child under eighteen are working” and a reason for inter-domain conflict is “the dramatic increase in the number of dual – career families” (p.?). Additionally, there are also more single-family households. Given the nature of police work and the stress of domestic chores and childcare, officers must often confront a daily stress both at work and at home. The type of attitude the officer has in the workplace will determine how the officer will relate to his or her family at home. This can be cyclical: As the officer’s home life deteriorates, he or she will continue to have less job satisfaction. Furthermore, because of the shift work and the necessity of working weekends, police officers miss many family events. Not all police departments have steady shifts either. Among those that do, many special units within department do not have steady shifts. Eventually, the officer begins to blame the police department for family discourse that ensues from this.
To cope, many police officers only socialize with families of other police officers because of the shift and weekend work schedule. However, this socializing tends to isolate the family from the greater community. An officer may look to his or her peers to exchange shifts for family events. Officers will also request time off from their supervisors. When neither can be of assistance to the officer, he or she will blame the police department for the ensuing conflict he will suffer (Howard et al., 2004).
Female police officers are more likely to suffer work-family stress than male police officers, as most play a bigger role in the family domain than a male officer does. Ryan (2001) noted that “both female applicants and their families saw the family as less supportive than male applicants” (p.?). The female officer, in fact, starts her career with more chance of work-family conflict. Martin (1980) stated that burnout often occurs in female police officers as a result of having more demands on their domestic role as a mother and wife than male officers. Even though they must conduct the balancing act of satisfying both work and family, marriage is usually more helpful in controlling their overall stress for male officers. As aforementioned, newly hired female police officers are less supported by their families than male police officers. A married female police officer will be more likely to bring home her experiences to discuss with her husband than a male officer would do with his wife. Even though it can be beneficial for an officer to discuss her experiences, it might negatively affect her relationship with her husband when discussed too often. However, to cope, women police officers seem to be more spiritual and will use religion (He et al., 2002).