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Police Dispatcher Stress | Research

Abstract

The impact of stress on police officers has been well documented and the importance of resiliency is becoming increasingly evident.  However, few investigations have focused on these factors in police dispatchers. Police dispatchers comprise a select group of sworn and non-sworn emergency service workers who form the hub of emergency response activity.  Dispatchers are required to demonstrate a significant degree of initiative, organization, focus, and judgment in responding to emotionally charged individuals involved in a variety of stress-inducing and potentially life-threatening situations.  In addition, dispatchers are tasked with conveying information received from callers to officers in the field in a clear, timely, and efficient manner.  Although dispatchers are almost never directly exposed to threats aimed at their physical integrity, their work detail is characterized by numerous psychological stressors that vary by degree and intensity.  Such stressors may be characterized by inconsistent fluctuations of activity and inactivity, exposure to pain and suffering, encounters with distraught citizens, and dealings with administrative and organizational challenges – all of which are known to unremittingly and inconspicuously wear at the physical, psychological, and emotional health of dispatchers, making the experience of stress inherent to their work.  The purpose of the proposed study is to: (1) identify and assess salient sources of stress in police dispatchers, (2) examine the prevalence of stress-related problems in this population, and (3) determine the impact of resiliency in stress reduction and coping effectiveness.  Participants included 100 (89 female and 11 male) active duty police dispatchers employed by a large law enforcement agency in south Florida.  Results indicated that job stress was a highly important concern for participating dispatchers.  This is underscored in correlational analyses of resilience, psychological/physical health symptoms, affect, and traumatic stress indices.  Clinical implications of the findings are discussed. The need for additional mental health services geared toward the unique experiences and challenges of police dispatchers is underscored.

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