The Impact of Personal Threat on Police Officers?? Responses to Critical Incident Stressors

Columbia University, New York, New York, United States
Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease (Impact Factor: 1.69). 09/2006; 194(8):591-7. DOI: 10.1097/01.nmd.0000230641.43013.68
Source: PubMed


The relationship of type of critical incident (CI) stressor with peritraumatic responses and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms was examined in police. Officers (N = 662) provided narratives of their most distressing CI experienced during police service and completed measures of related peritraumatic responses and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Narratives were reliably rated (kappa = .80-1.0) on seven categories emerging from a series of factor analyses of a measure of critical incident stressors. Additional analysis revealed that the classification of primary narrative features required only five categories (personal life threat, duty-related violence, encountering physical or sexual assault victims, exposure to civilian death, other). When analyzed by further collapsing these five categories into high versus low personal threat, officers whose narratives contained high personal threat reported more peritraumatic dissociation, peritraumatic emotional distress, and current hyperarousal symptoms. Results suggest that greater personal threat during a CI may place an officer at greater risk for subsequent distress.

1 Follower
31 Reads
  • Source
    • "PTSD is an anxiety disorder characterized by the reexperiencing of a traumatic event, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, psychological numbing, hypervigilance, and hyperarousal (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). The incidence of PTSD in police officers has been reported to range from 7–19%, and an even higher incidence if partial PTSD symptomatology (sub-threshold PTSD) is included (Carlier et al., 1997; Maia et al., 2007; McCaslin et al., 2006). Changes in brain structure and function related to trauma exposure have also been shown in police officers (J.L. Lindauer et al., 2004; R.J.L. Lindauer et al., 2004; Shucard et al., 2012). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Exposure to psychologically stressful and traumatic experiences and the requirement of heightened attention to environmental stimuli are common in police work. Police officers are at increased risk for stress-related disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Traumatic experiences can result in changes to brain structure and function associated with attention and cognitive control processes (such as response inhibition). Despite the significance that these cognitive functions may have on job performance in police officers, few studies have examined the effects of exposure to traumatic events on top-down cognitive control functions in police. In the present study, a dense electrode array system was used to examined the N2 and P3 components of the event-related potential (ERP) during a Go/NoGo continuous performance task (Go/NoGo CPT) in trauma-exposed police officers who did not meet criteria for a current diagnosis of PTSD and in non-trauma exposed civilian controls. Amplitude and latency were obtained to Go, NoGo, and non-target trials. The major between-group findings were for P3 amplitude. There were no group effects for N2. Both groups had an enhanced fronto-central P3 amplitude to NoGo compared to Go trials. However, police had greater P3 amplitude compared to controls for all trial types (Go, NoGo, non-target). PTSD symptom scores in police officers were positively correlated with fronto-central NoGo P3 amplitude, but not with posterior NoGo amplitude. This study provides evidence of heightened attention and/or arousal in police officers as indicated by the generally greater P3 amplitude in police compared to controls during a task requiring sustained attention and inhibitory control. Greater PTSD symptom severity in trauma-exposed individuals may affect frontal cognitive control systems related to response inhibition.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2013 · International journal of psychophysiology: official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology
  • Source
    • "Perceived threat is another variable that has been found to be important in predicting PTSD among veterans and is often included in comprehensive models of postdeployment functioning (e.g., King, King, Foy, Keane & Fairbank, 1999; King, King, Gudanowski & Vreven, 1995; Kulka et al., 1990). Perceived threat, which is a subjective response to a hostile environment and an important marker of peritraumatic response, is consistently associated with the onset of adverse mental health symptoms across samples (e.g., Holbrook, Hoyt, Stein, & Sieber, 2001; Marmar, Weiss, Metzler, Ronfelt, & Foreman, 1996; McCaslin et al., 2006). As a result, we also controlled for perceptions of danger in our exploration of the impact of killing on postdeployment mental health. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study examined the impact of killing on posttraumatic stress symptomatology (PTSS), depression, and alcohol use among 317 U.S. Gulf War veterans. Participants were obtained via a national registry of Gulf War veterans and were mailed a survey assessing deployment experiences and postdeployment mental health. Overall, 11% of veterans reported killing during their deployment. Those who reported killing were more likely to be younger and male than those who did not kill. After controlling for perceived danger, exposure to death and dying, and witnessing killing of fellow soldiers, killing was a significant predictor of PTSS, frequency and quantity of alcohol use, and problem alcohol use. Military personnel returning from modern deployments are at risk of adverse mental health symptoms related to killing in war. Postdeployment mental health assessment and treatment should address reactions to killing in order to optimize readjustment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2011 · Psychological Trauma Theory Research Practice and Policy
  • Source
    • "; van der Velden & Herpers, 1994). Regarding police officers, McCaslin et al. (2006a) concluded that the greater the personal threat during a critical incident, the greater risk the risk to a police officer of subsequent distress. In another cross-sectional study, Robinson and colleagues (1997) found that experiences of situational threat were significantly associated with somatization. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The extent to which the frequency of facing aggression incidents is associated with mental health problems among police officers when organizational stressors, life-events, and previous mental health problems are taken into account is unclear. To elucidate this data from a longitudinal study of police officers was analyzed (N = 473). Mental health problems (MHPs) are here defined as severe anxiety, depression, hostility, burnout symptoms, and/or sleeping problems according the SCL-90–R and MBI. All MHPs were assessed at baseline and 27 months later. Logistic regression showed that serious threat was statistically significant associated with MHPs at follow-up among officers without MHPs at baseline, but not among those with MHPs at baseline. However, stepwise logistic regression showed that serious threat and/or physical aggression were not independently associated with MHPs at follow-up. Organizational stressors, that is, problems with colleagues were independent predictors in all analyses. Among the total study sample, previous MHPs were the strongest independent predictors. These findings suggest superiors should attend to the mental health, organizational stressors and life-events of their officers regularly and not only following critical incidents at work.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2010 · Psychological Trauma Theory Research Practice and Policy
Show more