Coping isn't for the Faint of Heart: An Investigation into the Development of Coping Strategies for Incoming Police Recruits

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Virginia Tech


Policing in America has lost more officers to suicides than line of duty deaths over the past four years. As the gatekeepers to the criminal justice system, the well-being of officers is critical as unhealthy police using poor coping strategies to handle their stress can lead to a multitude of negative consequences for the communities they serve, their departments, their fellow officers, and themselves. While the technology of policing is quickly advancing, the routine duties of officers remain stressful. This stress requires officers to use effective coping strategies to deal with it, but the traditional subculture of policing promotes maladaptive, rather than adaptive, coping strategies. To understand how the subculture influences police and the coping strategies they use, research must understand the socialization process of recruits entering the job. The current research seeks to understand how police recruits are socialized into the police subculture and how this affects the coping strategies they use to deal with the stressors they will confront on the job. The research analyzes how the network position of recruits influences their adoption of the police subculture and how this, in turn, affects their development of coping strategies. Recruits were surveyed three times during their academy training to examine the transitioning and socialization that occurs throughout the police academy. Results reveal that networks affect the adoption of the police subculture by recruits and this socialization process impacts the development of coping strategies by recruits. Findings highlight the need for future work to continue the longitudinal research approach to examine how the networks change once recruits complete their field training and probationary period.



Policing, Coping, Police Subculture, Social Network Analysis