If you have any problems related to the accessibility of any content (or if you want to request that a specific publication be accessible), please contact us at email@example.com.
Blue to Black: Empathy Erosion in Law Enforcement Officers
AuthorLopez, Marcia Marie
AltmetricsView Usage Statistics
This thesis examines the impact of work experiences on empathy among people employed in the law enforcement profession. It is hard to imagine that what law enforcement officers (LEOs) go through would not affect how they relate to the public or handle themselves for career longevity. It is possible that the mere exposure both physically and mentally experienced by LEOs erodes the very empathy needed to navigate such a profession and is not only detrimental to the community they serve but to themselves. Data were collected using a voluntary, anonymous survey which was distributed to LEOs across the United States over an eight-month period. The analysis probes whether empathy is diminished by what a LEO encounters while on-the-job. The results suggest that the regular day to day activities of a LEO do not noticeably reduce empathy as I first thought they would. Upon further review however, certain experiences like the physical stressors associated with police work do predict increased anger, and symptoms of depression and PTSD. Conversely, I found that the more the LEO feels supported by their family, friends, community, and department, the less they experience anger, depression, and PTSD. It should be noted that empathy actually increases if the LEO experiences an injury or illness that affects their job. This was unexpected and may be a starting point to be explored by further studies. Studies involving LEOs are far from new and often follow a more common theme where a LEO feels “burnout.” Unfortunately, there have been few studies that attempt to capture the feeling of empathy in general and even less with its relation to the law enforcement profession. Although the original survey designed for this thesis was very comprehensive, participation was lower than expected. Thus, the results only paint a partial picture of how experiences LEOs encounter on the job affect how they feel. Further research should examine how LEOs’ feelings and experiences might improve positive relations with the community and increase wellness for the LEOs that serve it.