|Cops taking a siesta|
As an on-again, off-again insomniac, I find sleep studies fascinating. On one level, I can closely appreciate how important it is to get a good night of rest. After a long and uninterrupted rest, I feel more alert, healthier, and calm. My mood is elevated and I generally have energy to do all the stuff I need to get done. In contrast, a poor night of sleep can make me feel tired, lethargic, sick, irritable, and in general--horrible.
But beyond sleep patterns, I feel like this study--and others that put a lot of their explanatory power into sleep and other individual behaviors--often miss larger pieces of the puzzle that might also help explain why cops are stressed, show higher risks for heart disease/depression, and why cops might also show aggression on the job.
Police work can be extremely stressful work. In addition to the long and irregular hours, police officers in large, urban metro areas commonly respond to distress calls and enter into warzones. A typical day or night shift is filled with encounters with death, violence, and other kinds of human suffering that most of us will never have to encounter intimately.
Similarly, police officers also have a uniquely difficult job because they are so roundly disliked by the communities they serve. I don't have quantitative data on this, but I would be willing to bet that police officers are amongst the most hated public officials in many urban poor neighborhoods across America. This is evident in the kinds of historic breakdowns in trust and relations between poor black neighborhoods and police officers. Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street documents this in fine fashion.
|Anderson describes community distrust of police|
Can you imagine what it would be like to work a job in which almost everyone with whom you serve hates you? This must be what it's like to work for the IRS or as a meter maid. In my estimation, there are few public official jobs that are so roundly criticized and attacked by the public.
I've never worked as a police officer, but I think chronic exposures to danger and the negative public opinions of cops are also important factors that may affect the health of our officers. It would be nice if research and public attention focused more on these aspects of police work and less on what appear to be symptoms of stressful work.