This mixed-method research surveyed 271 officers in Florida to examine if a difference exists in critical life events (sources of stress) experienced by law enforcement officers. Descriptive statistics, t-test, chi-square, Anova and Cronbach's Alpha were used to analyze the data. The data did not reveal any significant statistical differences between sources of stress for male and female officers. The findings did however reflect significant statistical differences in the coping strategies and self-reporting of physical illnesses between male and female officers.
Key Words: Stress, Gender, coping strategies, Law enforcement officers. Introduction Police work is a highly stressful occupation, and police officers are frequently exposed to stressors that are unique to their jobs. Their role of protecting the public, for instance, makes it possible to anticipate both positive and negative responses to stress (Renck, Weisaeth &Skarbo, 2002). The effects of the stress have been empirically linked to the physiological and psychological illness of officers and to the decreased quality and quantity of police service.
Moreover, the law enforcement culture plays a "direct role in the causation of traumatic stress reactions, and organization factors are particularly relevant when dealing with duty related psychological trauma" (Renck et al. , p. 7). Over the years, policing has been characterized as appropriate only for males and inconsistent with socially acceptable female activities (Lonsway et al. , 2002). With the increasing number of women joining the profession, issues regarding the impact of the job, its stressors, and the effect of a male dominated subculture on women have come to the fore.
Historically, research into police stress is most often descriptive or anecdotal. To adequately understand, predict, and control stress among the law enforcement officers, particularly among female officers, more empirical study is necessary. To this end, this mixed-method research surveyed 271 officers in Florida to examine if a difference exists in critical life events (sources of stress) experienced by law enforcement officers. The instrument used was a modified version of Sewell's Law Enforcement Critical Life Events Scale (LECLES) survey.
The LECLES is a 144-item instrument that examines police stress based on individual events (Sewell, 1983). The sample for this study was drawn from a population of 734 municipal, county, and state law enforcement officers in the Tampa Bay, Florida, area each of whom had a minimum of 5 years of active law enforcement experience. Officers were administered a Likert-type attitudinal scale to rate their perceived stress on a scale of 0 to 5, or none to very high.
Agency Profile Respondents were drawn from five agencies within the Tampa Bay each of which was accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation Law Enforcement Agencies at the national level or the Florida Commission Law Enforcement Accreditation (or both). On The successful accomplishment, the accreditation process ensures that these agencies comply with a set of law enforcement standards meeting all the professionally recognized criteria. Site 1: Florida Highway Patrol The Florida Highway Patrol is Florida's largest traffic law agency.
In March 2002, the Florida Highway Patrol had over 1,770 troopers (sworn law enforcement officers) and 500 non sworn staff. At the time of study, Troop F of Florida Highway Patrol, located in the Tampa Bay area, was commanded by a female major in charge of charged with managing the operations in the nine counties comprising the troop's geographic district. Troop F is posed of 96 male and 16 female troopers. Twelve of the females met the minimum 5-year requirement (FHP, personal e-mail, November 14, 2005).
Site 2: Lakeland Police Department The city of Lakeland covers approximately 70. 5 square miles with a population of over 90,000 permanent residents. In November 2005, the LPD authorized to have 234 law enforcement officers, although, at that time, it had only 221 officer positions filled: 193 males and 28 females (LPD, personal e- mail, January 3, 2006). There were 54 sworn supervisory personnel. The LPD command leadership included one chief of police and three assistant police chiefs (one of whom was a female).
The total number of females that had a minimum of 5 years of active law enforcement experience was not available. Site 3: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Sarasota County covers approximately 620 square miles, with a population of over 360,000 permanent residents, approximately 81,000 seasonal residents, and over 1. 1 million tourists and visitors per year. Sarasota County Sheriff's Office has 280 male deputies and 44 female deputies. Site 4: Tampa Police Department Tampa is the largest city in Hillsborough County and it is the third most populous city in Florida.
The city is 116. 1 square miles with a population of over 333,000 permanent residents. As of November 29, 2005, there were approximately 980 sworn officers, of which 110 females had a minimum of 5 years of active law enforcement experience. Two of the three assistant chiefs of police are females. Site 5: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Hillsborough County covers over 1,000 square miles, approximately 900 square miles of which comprise unincorporated Hillsborough County.
The county has a population of over 1. 1 million permanent residents, of whom 759,000 are in the unincorporated Hillsborough County area. Seasonal residents range from approximately 20,000 in midsummer to 60,000 in the winter months. The county has approximately 17 million tourists and visitors per year. Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is the 10th largest suburban law enforcement agency, by personnel, in the nation.
The agency has 103 male and 14 female supervisors and 767 male and 159 female deputies, of which 155 of the females have 5 or more years of active law enforcement experience. Demographic Profile Of the 271 respondents to the survey, 148 (55%) were male and 123 (45%) were female. The sample in this study was more heavily female oriented than the gender composition of other law enforcement agencies with 100 or more sworn law enforcement officers, but it provided a better comparison of stressors based on gender.
The summary data for 2000 for state and local law enforcement agencies with 100 or more officers indicate that female officers comprise 12% of county police, 14% of municipal police, 14% of sheriff agencies and 6% of primary state law enforcement (Reaves &Hickman, 2004). All of the agencies in this research had 100 or more officers. He, Zhao and Archbold (2002) posited that similar demographic findings of the female respondents might contribute to a similar professional perspective on stressful events. The average age of all officers was 42. 99 years.