This is part one of a three part series, first presented in August
for the other installments, part
2 and part
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: Arthur@lacp.org
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
Emergency Communications, Police Stress
and Crisis Management
1 of 3)
European and Other International Developments
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
establish common denominators on an enormous scale."
---- Professor Vahakn N. Dadrian
Stress and Police Performance: The Beck Studies and
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
A few of the key findings were:
recruits report very high levels of commitment. However, those
levels decrease rapidly with experience, particularly with exposure
to the police organization.
levels of non-sworn police staff with university degrees are
low, and remain low independent of their length of service.
in commitment among newly recruited officers results mainly
from exposure to the vastly reduced commitment demonstrated
by senior officers.
second reason for commitment drop is disappointment in interaction
with the community.
police employees were more committed to the organization if
they felt they were valued and supported by the organization.
most commonly cited forms of lack of support were:
lack of advocacy from senior management against accusations;
lack of communication, especially about career development and
lack of recognition of performance and experience.
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:
of stress, particularly organizational stress;
skills (alcohol, overeating, depression);
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
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:
closeness of those relationships was found to be significant,
12.495, p< or =.000).
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.
NOTE: Look for the other installments, part
2 and part
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:
A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur.
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
They are consultants and authors on international policing, social
policy and human rights, and regular contributors to the forum
at LA Community Policing.
For more of their work, please see the Think
additional information or a complete list of references, contact: