By Barry Sherman
Instruct the “Senior Seminar” capstone course for graduating Criminal Justice Seniors at Madonna University. The students in the class are both officers from the field and those who are looking to enter the criminal justice arena. We examine contemporary issues in criminal justice and approach them from a critical thinking perspective. Naturally, the topic of police stress (and how to counter it) is one of those issues. Traditionally, this subject was always approached by analyzing those stressors that exist for an officer from within the organization, as well as those external to the department setting. Today we must look at a third type of stress for an officer, and that is eco- nomic stress. This affects the officer at both the institutional level as well as the personal level. Several years before I retired in the late 1990’s I was assigned as training lieutenant for Livonia P.D. Funds were prevalent for training, equipment, overtime, and other miscellaneous needs. We all know this is not the case today. Training budgets have been slashed, and outdated, damaged equipment tends to be given an extended life span. Overtime now comes in two extremes. The first is that it has been cut or is non-existent. This becomes a stressor for the officer who has attained a standard of living based on his or her prior overtime income and now has difficulty meeting financial obligations. The other extreme is forced overtime for those de- partments who have cut so far into their manpower that they have to order officers to work excessive hours, which takes a toll on their personal and family life. In addition, there is the stress associated with governmental employ- ers now asking for contract concessions in both wages and fringe benefits. These concessions impact the quality of life for officers and their fami- lies. Collective bargaining rights for public employees are being attacked in many states and it looks like Michigan could be moving in that direc- tion. Another worry to public employees is the movement to tax pensions in Michigan. A major issue today that did not face us a decade ago is the dismantling of departments by contracting with larger agencies to take over policing in their communities. I could go on and on listing the negative economic issues facing today’s police officer. My main point here is that police officers now have an ad- ditional stress factor that did not exist in policing of the past. It should not surprise you that police have higher rates than the national overage when it comes to divorce, alcohol abuse and suicide. Police officers tend to deny or avoid the fact they may need professional help to deal with these situ- ations. For this reason, police administrators/managers need to become more cognizant of the early signs of stress in their employees. Early inter- vention is the key to prevention of a more serious or permanent issue that would negatively impact the officer, his or her family, the department, and the community. Autocratic police administrators need to come off the high horse and work with their officers, not against them. Reducing the stress within the organization is essential when the officer has the other stress factors to deal with. The community also benefits from early intervention as productivity and job satisfaction increase, resulting in positive relations with its citizens.