Police Stress: The Gendering of Violence and Stress in Modern Policing

Don Kurtz, Kansas State University

Law enforcement is widely regarded as one of the most stressful and violent professions. Officer stress has been associated with a number of negative behaviors and psychological outcomes including high rates of substance abuse, divorce, and violence. Concerns over officer violence include both work related acts like use of excessive force or unwarranted deadly force, and non-work related violence like domestic and child abuse. Additionally, self-inflicted violence in the form of officer suicide is a particularly glaring concern for modern law enforcement. Despite the interest in the interplay between sub-cultural attitudes, organizational structure, and high stress events, most research into police violence and suicide have failed to address a fundamental concern: the influence of gendering processes on both individuals and organizations. It is the purpose of this research to show that police violence, both outward and self-inflicted, is embedded in the gender structure and process of policing and not simply a response to high stress situations.

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Updated 05/20/2006