Coping with work related stress and psychosocial functioning: the case of police officers in the Local Criminal Record Centre (LCRC).
Mangoegape, Mmamodia Francinah
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Police work is acknowledged as hazardous and highly stressful throughout the globe. Police officers are often expected to work under difficult circumstances and also in dangerous environments, for an example, the current xenophobic attacks in South Africa constitute a dangerous environment for an individual to work in thus resulting in stress. From the period 1994 to 2004, serious criminal offenses increased by more than 30%. Currently, South Africa is rated as the country with the highest incidence of rape and the second highest incidence of murder in the world. The dramatic increase in the rate of crime meant that new demands were being placed on the South African Police Service and all this leads to the development of stress for the police officers. The particular coping strategies that police officers draw on to deal with stress may have implications for the development of PTSD, burnout and suicidal ideations. One of the imperative occupational hazards of police work is frequent publicity to traumatic incidents and the resulting risk of developing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Previous studies discovered that coping strategies may play a significant role in an individual's level of psychological functioning and for the purpose of this study coping has been divided into two main areas: problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. Although many cope within these working conditions, a number of police officers often struggle to deal with the demands of the job and the job stress, often leading to problems in their psychological functioning. SAPS then came up with a solution of implementing sub-divisions so that the work load can be minimised. Because the SAPS is divided into different sub-divisions including the Child Protection Unit (CPU), tactical response team (TRT), the dog unit, detective unit, public order police service (POPS), and most of the previous studies conducted, the focus has been among the general police populations: this study will be conducted among police officers who work in the Local Criminal Record Centre (LCRC) officers. This is a unit in the South African Police Services (SAPS) which deals with the forensic investigations of crime scenes. At times the LCRC officer is expected to give testimonies in court which may also be traumatic and precipitate anxiety as well as fear for their lives. It is clear that these officers work in an environment that can be stressful to their psychological functioning hence the undertaking of this study. The Socio-Ecological Model was used as the theoretical framework; this model explains the dynamic interrelations of various personal and social factors. An individual exists within layers of social relationships: the family, friendship network (micro-system), the relationship that an individual has with the people in the micro-system (meso-system) organisations, neighborhood (exo-system) and culture and society (macro-system). The theoretical perspectives used to explain and express the focus of this study were: (!)Lazarus and Folkman transactional model of stress and coping, (2)The social cognitive learning approach and (3)Vulnerability hypothesis. This study as a result was aimed at exploring work related stress and psychological functioning of the police officers in the local criminal record centre LCRC. The research was conducted with police officers from Johannesburg LCRC and Krugersdorp LCRC in the Gauteng Province, South Africa. The researcher used purposive stratified sampling technique to select the participants based on using the police officers in the specific unit (LCRC). The subsequent questionnaires were used to assemble data on the variables included in the study: (1) The Police Stress Inventory, (2) The General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28), (3) The Coping Orientations to Problems Experienced Questionnaire and (4) A biographical questionnaire, data was then analysed using the SPSS computer programme in this study and the findings were discussed in depth supported by previous studies. The main outcome of the study is that, there is a relationship between work related stress and psychological functioning of the police officers in the LCRC unit. Furthermore, the results revealed that coping has a moderating effect on work related stress and the psychological functioning of the LCRC members.The participants have shown that emotion-focused coping is the type of coping that is mainly used by officers in the LCRC units in the Gauteng Province.
- Health Sciences