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Police officers in the United States are faced with a rising crime rate, delinquents armed with illegal, superior weaponry, a seemingly ineffective criminal justice system, and behavioral monitoring, thus helping to create a work-related stress that impacts their personal lives (Witkin, 1990). Law enforcement families tend to experience a broad range of stressors that other families may not. These stresses are a direct result of the high hazard occupation held by one or both of the spouses in a relationship. Irregular sleep schedules caused by shift work resulting in time loss with family, dangerous assignments, as well as “the unknown”, and negative stereotyping of police officers are all causes of stress among law enforcement families (Miller, 2007). Unless one is living in a law enforcement family the stresses endured are often misunderstood and many are not even aware of the fear and frustration suffered by law enforcement officers, their spouse, and their children.
Parents of children can also add to the negative stereotype without even realizing it. Silly threats, such as, “See that policeman over there? If you don’t behave he’s going to take you to jail.” This is, of course, absurd, but happens on a regular basis to police officers. Children need to be taught that police are the “good guys.” They are the people a child can approach when frightened or in danger because they want to provide assistance. Filling a child’s head with non-realistic threats of the person behind the badge is dangerous and teaches disrespect towards a position where respect has been earned (Dowler, 2003). Law enforcement officers are seen as authority figures and society places high expectations on them. People deal with them differently and treat them differently, even when they are not working. When a problem occurs, everyone looks to the officer to "take charge," to "solve the problem." Some say the cop is never off duty even when they are not wearing a vest, gun, or badge. This can lead to police officers feeling isolated. The segregation can lead to many psychological effects which research shows can create negative personality traits (Aumiller, 1993).
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