International Developments in
mergency Communications, Police Stress
and Crisis Management


Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur.
Robin Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c.

International Human Rights Law and Policy
c/o Los Angeles Community Policing
email to:

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part one of a three part series, first presented in August 2003. Look for the other installments, part 2 and part 3.

August 12, 2003

Prepared for:

..........Performance Investment Fund (PIF) Advisory Committee,
..........Emergency Communications & Information Technology Project
..........County of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department
..........Leroy D. Baca, Sheriff
..........Dr. Richard Weintraub, Director, Professional Development Bureau

Interim Research Notes


International Developments in
Emergency Communications, Police Stress
and Crisis Management


(part 1 of 3)

Comparative European and Other International Developments

"Case studies essentially are self-contained explorations and,
as such, have limited usefulness in the quest for generalizations.
By and large, such generalizations are achieved only through
comparative studies. This is particularly true when attempting to
establish common denominators on an enormous scale."

---- Professor Vahakn N. Dadrian

I. Organizational Stress and Police Performance: The Beck Studies and their Progeny

In 1991, the Australian National Police Research Unit (now the Australasian Centre for Policing Research) was asked by the national government to identify ways to solve morale problems in general duty policing.

In response, the Research Unit appointed an internationally respected expert, Dr. Carlene Wilson, to take apart the way police look at their work throughout the English-speaking world. Dr. Wilson approached her long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Karen Beck, Senior Research Officer for the ACPR, to join her in what has turned out to be a magnum opus over twelve years in the making.

The following is a brief summary of the salient points of interest extracted from the series of international studies usually referred to collectively as the Beck Studies.

Early on, Beck and Wilson discovered that they would encounter long-simmering difficulties in defining the term "morale". In 1991, morale was generally defined as "an attitude of satisfaction with, desire to continue in, and willingness to strive for the goals of a particular group or organization." Thus, police morale was regarded as a function of the police force's own mission. It became obvious to Beck and Wilson and their research team that they would have to seek a more three-dimensional definition -and approach-if they were to separate the job from the organization.

Also, one of the chief purposes of the study was to examine why organizational commitment was alarmingly low among Australian and U.K. police officers, while apparently quite high among continental Western European law enforcement professionals of all ranks.

One of the first departures taken from traditional research, therefore, was to attempt to measure an inherently subjective variable: How does the individual officer react to organizational stress as compared to operational stress? How do low levels of commitment to the organization correlate to low levels of job satisfaction?

One of the first empirical results of the continuing studies conducted between 1994 and 1997 confirmed that low levels of commitment are related to low levels of individual and organizational performance and high rates of absenteeism, tardiness, and turnover.

The studies collected surveys from 1,200 experienced Australian police officers, 600 New Zealand officers, over 6,000 officers throughout Great Britain, and 3,000 officers in Canada, including members of the RCMP.

A few of the key findings were:

1. Police recruits report very high levels of commitment. However, those levels decrease rapidly with experience, particularly with exposure to the police organization.
2. Commitment levels of non-sworn police staff with university degrees are low, and remain low independent of their length of service.
3. Decrease in commitment among newly recruited officers results mainly from exposure to the vastly reduced commitment demonstrated by senior officers.
4. A second reason for commitment drop is disappointment in interaction with the community.
5. All police employees were more committed to the organization if they felt they were valued and supported by the organization.
6. The most commonly cited forms of lack of support were:
  a. lack of advocacy from senior management against accusations;
  b. lack of communication, especially about career development and promotion; and
  c. lack of recognition of performance and experience.

Commitment and Performance:

During the 1994-1997 period of research, a number of other empirical studies of morale within police organizations were completed. Many of them examined relationships between police officers' job satisfaction or organizational commitment and various measurements of performance.

A few of the factors contributing to low levels of commitment are:

High levels of stress, particularly organizational stress;
Poor coping skills (alcohol, overeating, depression);
Alienation from the organization

Other studies involving large samples of police officers from Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Canada found that officers with low levels of morale selected less ethical solutions to a series of ethical dilemmas.

Moreover, officers with strong commitments to their work team and weak commitment to the organization were more likely to cover up unethical or corrupt behavior of colleagues. They were also more likely to suffer illness, especially stress-related illnesses, than their colleagues with high organizational commitment, and several times more likely to suffer work-related injuries.

Based on the results of studies conducted throughout the 1990's, top police management in Great Britain became increasingly concerned that the drop in officer morale, coupled with consistently rising crime rates and symptoms of officer stress, were at least partially a consequence of a failure to understand and define employee commitment.

In this context, the most significant study to date is Metcalfe and Dick (2001), which effectively redefined the links between police officer stress, morale, and performance.

That study involved a rather large sample, 3,828 police officers throughout Great Britain, spanning a broad range of rank positions. Multiple regression analysis was used to test the relationships between organizational commitment and performance as follows:

Dependent Variables: Independent Variables:


organization support
Goals management support
Involvement appraisal
rank seniority
tenure length

The closeness of those relationships was found to be significant,

(F= 12.495, p< or =.000).

Surprisingly, the study found that rank affects organizational commitment, but that the relationship is inverse: Promotions are apparently one of the weaker links in ensuring lasting organizational commitment, high morale and performance.

Finally, the relative presence or absence of commitment was determined to be a major factor contributing to stress, morale loss and ethical lapses. According to the studies discussed herein, police management goals of increased efficiency and effectiveness are probably being compromised by the inverse relationship between commitment, rank, and organizational stress.

The implications for police performance under emergency conditions are self-evident. Indeed, a prerequisite to success in the international war on terrorism may be a painful re-examination of the complex bundle of objective and subjective perceptions we generally refer to as "stress".

The role of officer stress in emergency decision-making is discussed further in the context of crisis management, Section III infra.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Look for the other installments, part 2 and part 3:

II. Recent European Bilateral and Multilateral Treaties on Cross-Border Cooperation in Police Pursuits: Links to Emergency Communication

III. Crisis Management, Stress, and Impact on Police Performance: Psychological Implications

Respectfully submitted,

Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur. Robin Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c. 


--- Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman are international human rights lawyers with legal educations in the United States and Europe. They are consultants and authors on international policing, social policy and human rights, and regular contributors to the forum here at LA Community Policing.

For more of their work, please see the
Think Tank.

For additional information or a complete list of references, contact:

Dr. Arthur Jones