For a long time, novels, movies and TV shows have depicted the work of a police officer to be all about high speed chases, car crashes, shootouts and nonstop glamorous action. Even though working as a police officer can be quite rewarding, there is still more about this career path than meets the eye. Here are some of the effects of being a police officer that can spill over to have an effect on your social and domestic life:

  1. Hours

The man hours a police officer has to put varies extensively. This makes sense because crime and criminals do not have a 9 to 5 schedule and as such, the service they (police officers) provide is needed round the clock. This usually results in police officers having to work in shifts round the clock. The shifts can come in the form of working late nights, weekends and holidays.

Working during these “unwholesome time” can go a long way to disrupt the police officers internal clock. In addition, these hours of work can affect relationships and family life. A study that was published in the British Medical Journal in the year 2012 found shift workers are slightly more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes as people who work regular jobs (9 to 5 jobs).

2. Socializing

You would think that only hardened criminals would hate or be apprehensive about police officers. Well, that is not usually the case. In fact, a lot of people are suspicious of police officers, irrespective of if they regularly commit crime or not.

Even though the presence of a police officer is supposed to always make you feel safe, police officer have come to realize that a lot of people tend to find them menacing or find it uncomfortable to be around them, even when they are off duty. This can go a long way to be clog in the wheel when they want to socialize with others. As a consequence, most police officers tend to socialize mainly among themselves.

3. Murder and Suicide

A career as a police officer can be quite dangerous. In just the year 2011, 72 United States law enforcement officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty, according to the FBI. This figure is a 29 percent increase from the 56 officers who were killed in 2010 and a 75 percent increase from the figure in 2008.

This just shows that the risk involved in this line of profession is not only very real but also on the increase. This can rob a family of its breadwinner and render spouses widows/widowers and children fatherless/motherless.

Police officers are also more likely to commit suicide than the general population. The suicide rate among police officers was 17 for every 100,000 in 2010 compared to 11 for every 100,000 among the general population, according to the National Study of Police Suicides by the Badge of Life Organization.

4. Pay

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Police and sheriff’s patrol officers receive an average yearly salary of about $56,260 including overtime. Even though this is more than the amount earned ($45,230) by most occupations, it is still considered to be relatively low when you factor in the hours they have to work and the inherent danger that comes with the occupation.

5. Excessive Stress

The occupation of a police officer can come with a lot of stress attached to it. This is why this type of career is best suited for those who have a high street tolerance. Due to the chronic stress police officers are exposed to, it comes as no surprise that they have the highest suicide rate when compared to all other professions.

As a result of the trauma that they have to face on a regular basis, police officer are also at risk on abusing alcohol and developing a dependency on various drugs. In addition, conflicting expectations impose an additional layer of stress. On one hand, an officer’s professional conduct is governed by strict military-style procedures. However, officers must frequently evaluate complex and difficult situations that don’t fit established practices.

Police officers also tend to undergo chronic stress when they become victims of crime, especially if the crime was violent in nature. However, it has been found that police officers who fall victims to crime themselves tend to become even more dedicated to their jobs.

Working in shifts can be stressful which goes a long way to wreak havoc on the health, wellbeing and physical fitness of police officers.  According to studies, as much as 35% of police officers experience post-traumatic stress (PTS) at work, while 10% show at least several symptoms of PTS.

Police officers also tend to be stressed by the atmosphere in their work place and the organizational climate. Just like any other profession, police officers may be exposed to chronic stressors such as work overload, shift work, monotony, responsibility, unpredictability, equipment shortages and interpersonal conflicts.

Other sources of stress in the police force could include severe lack of technical equipment, the need to use obsolete or unreliable equipment, prolonged court trials, perceived unfair court rulings, low pay and poor work management manifesting in conflicting decisions.

Police officers are faced with situations of violence, brutality and even sometimes death which can make it difficult for them to carry out their spousal and parental responsibilities effectively. It is not uncommon for the stressful situations they face to spill over into their private lives. The probability that an officer of the law can get maimed or even die in the line of duty doesn’t help to stabilize their family members.

In addition, working during weekends, shifts work, holidays et al., can go a long way to reduce the quality of their domestic lives. It is not also uncommon for the family members of police officers to be depressed due to the nature of the work of their spouse or parent.

6. Family Life

The effects of a police officer’s career are traditionally felt closest to home. Long hours, rotating shifts and canceled leaves are facts of life in police work. Balancing a law enforcement career’s demands with parental responsibilities forces officers to miss birthdays, school activities and other significant milestones of family life. However, an officer may still feel the need to exert control at home, putting his wife and children under additional stress.

7. Isolation

Social isolation can sometimes develop from police work. Police officers have a tendency to stay within their circle. Officers’ spouses and children sometimes seem to be bound by this unspoken rule. In addition, the fact that police officers tend to see people at their worse makes their conviction to be hardened as they see most people as either criminals or fools. Over time, officers adopting such attitudes also develop an “us against them” mentality in dealing with the public.

8. Public Perception

The public usually has a skewed view of the profession of police officers usually because of the power, authority role and discretion in using force that they wield. The negative and unrealistic portrayal of police officers in movies and films has not helped their case in any way.

Heavy media coverage of high profile officer-involved shootings, brings further scrutiny to the police force. As a result, a lot of police officers are worried that whatever they do will be heavily and unfairly judged by the public. Consequently, many police officers worry that everything they do will be heavily disparaged by people who were not even in their shoes nor know what it feels like to be in the police force.

9. Health Risks

A lot of reports including a comprehensive study by the University Of Buffalo School Of Public Health and Health Professionals, have been able to establish a relationship between the job of police officers and their health. The various reports identified shift work and stress as the two major factors that lead to a less than optimal health status in police officers.

Erratic work schedules and shifts often results in poor sleep habits and fatigue. The added stress that comes with this sort of work often leads to poor exercise habits which can lead to a decline in the health of these officers.  That stress, along with the potential for post-traumatic stress from being involved in frightening and dangerous incidents, horrific scenes of death and destruction and unpleasant encounters with angry citizens can lead to yet another hidden danger: depression and suicide.

10. Training Accidents Cause Injury and Death to Officers and Police Recruits

The actual police work is not just where the danger sets in. Police officers training can also present its very own peculiar dangers. The training that these officers have to go through can be very rigorous and intense, irrespective of if it’s in firearms, defensive tactics, physical fitness or immersive programs like active shooter response training.

The nature of police training is such that there is a relatively high potential for injury or even death if safety precautions are not imposed and adhered to. Even then, officers and police recruits alike can succumb to injuries they incur during their training.

In conclusion, the effects of being a police officer on your social and domestic life can be felt in a lot of ways. The challenges that come with being in the police force can spill over into domestic life and upset the normal balance that should exist.

Ajaero Tony Martins