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Title: Stress in the police force
Author: Harrison, Suzi
ISNI:       0000 0004 2723 5141
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Research has consistently highlighted that staff in the emergency services experience high levels of occupational stress. There has been an abundance of research over the past 40 years investigating the causes, coping strategies and consequences of this. Despite such a high density of research existing, much of it is atheoretical, poorly designed and full of methodological limitations, which greatly restricts its utility. The current theoretical paper reviewed the data on occupational stress in police officers over the past 10 years to determine whether any conclusions can be drawn. For clarity, the data was organised according to Carson and Kuipers (1998) model of stress, distinguishing stressors, mediators and outcomes. The review made tentative' yet important conclusions: that police officers tend to present 'distress' somatically, older officers experience more distress, police officers have low rates of help seeking and tend to find 'organisational' stressors (relating to work load and work climate) more distressing than 'operational' stressors (aspects of front line duty). Methodological limitations mean interpretation must be exercised with caution, particularly given the correlational designs and the desire to interpret causality. The empirical paper explored the experiences of a new police role, the Police Community Support Officer (PCSO). Only one study has been conducted with this group, and it concluded that rates of distress were comparable to police officers. For the current study, a qualitative method was employed, to gain a rich understanding of the lived experiences of PCSOs. Seven PCSOs were interviewed using semi structured interviews about their experiences in the role, and their experiences of stress and coping. The data was analysed with Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Four super ordinate themes emerged: "feeling valued vs. devalued in the PCSO role"; "the challenges of poor role clarity: working out how to do the job"; "making sense of stress and learning how to manage it" and a final theme providing a context for the other themes "organisational culture". This study highlighted the challenges for PCSOs, some inherent to the role, but others a product of the organisation. The study also demonstrates the richness of data gained via a qualitative study, and the need for further research in this methodology with other police groups.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available