n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Stress and traumatic symptoms among police officers at a South African police station

Volume 14, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Law enforcement is one of the professions where stress has been a special concern (Sewell 1983). There are different sources of police stress such as organisational, operational and situational stresses (Spielberger, Westberry, Grier & Greenfield 1981). This study focuses on the situational sources of police stress or critical incidents in police work. They consist of threatening, deeply depressing situations, and can entail sudden death. Examples include physical assault of a police officer, the violent death or suicide of an officer who is a close friend, or a response to a scene involving the accidental death of a child (Carlier & Gersons 1992). Research has shown that stressful or traumatic experiences in police work can lead to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Kopel and Friedman (1997) found that among Internal Stability Unit members of the South African Police 27 (49%) met the Impact of Event Scale criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD. Burgers (1994) noted that studies to determine the extent of PTSD in the South African Police Service (in 1987 among riot police in Cape Town and the Eastern Cape, and in 1988 among black police in Soweto and Pretoria) indicated that 36% of the riot police and 41% of black police suffered from PTSD. Current suicide statistics among the police force is alarming when comparing the incidence of suicide among police officials in 1991 (60 out of every 100 000) with that of the general population (5 out of every 100 000) (Nel & Burgers 1998). The literature on traumatic responses in police officers has primarily examined the effects of shooting incidents, and to date no research has investigated police officers in the environment of political and civil conflict that has characterised South Africa (Kopel & Friedman 1997). The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which current and continuous exposure to traumatic experiences contributed to traumatic stress responses.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error