October 17, 2021

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Hazards in the police service

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This article is written by Shivali Srivastava from National Law University, Odisha and has been edited by Abanti Bose, from Amity University, Kolkata, India. In this article, the author has analysed the hazards in the police service and provided some recommendations for safeguarding the interests of the police personnel.

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The Indian Police Service is one of the three most reputed services in India as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, 1950. The Police Services of India continue to be ruled and governed by a rule of law that had been passed in the year 1861. However, the Indian Constitution provides for the state governments to look after the efficient policing of their state. In addition to this, the state is responsible for the change in reforms for the police in India, the plight of the police officers cannot be neglected whatsoever. Police officers face many challenges related to their occupational health and their personal as well as the safety of their family that can affect their physical, mental, and interpersonal relationships.

A police officer is always subject to a lot of pressure from the department due to their work nature which requires them to be on their toes all through the day. They do not enjoy regular holidays that other workforce in a lot of other departments enjoy. As a result of this, they are put under tremendous load and are always keyed up. Consequently, the brunt of the condition worsens their personal health in terms of mental, physical, or emotional health. Adding to the misery, it even troubles their interpersonal relationships. 

Strenuous working environment, tight work schedules and job demands, continuous risk of being injured or bruised, or being attacked on duty, deprivation of recognition and acknowledgment, politics and hierarchy within the police department, carrying out anti-terrorism operations and activities, sub-standard equipment for operations are a few of the occupation-related issues and hazards that the policemen face in their day to day job activities. Some studies have revealed particular abnormalities, such as anemia, visual defects, and varicose veins. Repeated pressure to self-regulate the body as in police service has been correlated with general obesity, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disorders, depression, Cushing’s disease. Besides, high levels of colon and liver cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and homicide have been recorded. According to various surveys and studies conducted by the Bureau of Police Research carried out by organizations, a specific pattern in constables and police officers has been noticed. The police personnel tends to indulge themselves in stress-relieving activities like smoking and alcohol addiction.

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The major part of their life is subject to a constantly pressurizing environment which makes them susceptible to a variety of non-communicable diseases and cardiovascular problems at a very young age. Cops are at a higher risk of high blood pressure (BP), insomnia, increased levels of destructive stress hormones, heart problems, and post-traumatic stress disorder due to constant job pressures. They develop a lot of health issues which hampers in rendering service to the state.

Experiments of workplace medical conditions amongst officers indicated that insufficient wages/amenities, round-the-clock service, insufficient time with the family, hostile communication with other police workers, abuse, the uncertainty of position, and general negative perception are some of the aspects that influence psychological stress and burning out. Frustration, antisocial behaviour and attitude, concerns with conduct, acts of violence, and sometimes even suicides are some of the embodiments of workplace stress. Occupational stress includes a variety of detrimental organizational outcomes and several studies have repeatedly shown that higher workplace stress rates contribute to lower work satisfaction levels.

This result has important implications for any form of organization, especially the police, as job satisfaction has been shown to indicate poorer rates of commitment, performance, and increased probability of resignation from work. Stress and its effect on the mental and physical health of police officers are not adequately discussed by the authorities and health professionals concerned in India. Constables include numerous factors such as insufficient family housing/protection, erratic work conditions, insufficient child education provision, contradictory policies on evaluation, accountability and relocation, inadequate personal leisure (e.g., coffee breaks and lunch), lack of support from senior policemen, lack of appreciation for successful work, work overtime, Insufficient pay, lack of holidays, lack of incentives for advancement and delayed promotion led to substantial levels of psychological stress.

As far as the benefits are concerned, the position of a police officer is extremely self-rewarding. As a policeman, they are concerned with improving relations with the community and safeguarding human rights. They are supposed to be seen as a social backbone, and someone that people can trust. Often, they also end up saving lives. Another benefit is for people who love adventures and challenges. It’s a demanding career and it drives you to your limits who are mentally and physically more challenging. The nature of the job means that each day is extremely varied, and will bring new challenges to be overcome.

Working as a police officer will take you to new locations and events, and put you into contact with all sorts of people. In this way, people learn a lot of soft skills that develop a lot of communication skills. One learns to be assertive, quick, on their toes accepting of all people from all cultures and religions and all the facets of life. Being a police officer teaches you significant self-improvement. Working in the police force, along with the people you will meet, will ultimately help you progress and grow as an individual. You will also be responsible for your colleagues / other members of your police unit, the public, and representing the name of the police service, along with the responsibility you will assume.

Canada

Canada’s police services are one of the best in the world. Canada’s public-sector police forces are linked and appointed to the three levels of government: municipal (lower and upper), provincial, and federal. Many First Nations Reserves have their police forces established through agreements between the Native Governing Band, Province and Federal Government. Also, seven of Canada’s provinces and now all three territories contract their provincial/territorial law enforcement duties with the Royal Mounted Police of Canada (RCMP) The regions of Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador operate their regional police forces, respectively the Ontario Provincial Police, the Sûreté du Québec and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Smaller cities and counties frequently contract police from the district police authority while larger municipalities attain their troops. The provincial police force of Newfoundland has direct responsibility for the wider urban areas of the province. There are also several private police forces with some of the powers that are generally reserved for government forces (as it relates to the properties of companies).

United States

American police are working globally, in the federal, state, county, and Niveaux municipalities. Police in the U.S. is performed by about 18,000 federal, state, municipal and city forces, all with their own rules. Each state has its nomenclature for agencies, and its authority, roles, and resources differ from state to state. At the federal level, there are both federal police, who have full federal authority under the U.S. Code (U.S.C.), and federal law enforcement agencies, authorized to enforce various federal laws. The Federal Statistics Bureau of Justice (BJS) does a thorough job and detailed surveys of US police agencies. Such state and local officials were working in departments with a workforce size of 36,000 as in New York City was reported to one. Many companies do not have full-time assertive employees and then employ a range of part-time officers or arrangements for the delivery of police services to other agencies. 

Australia

Police forces in Australia, along with the judiciary and corrections, is one of three main components of the state’s judicial system. All three stages of state-federal, state/territory, and local deploy these police officers. At a federal level, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) is the primary security agency which has a broad mandate to implement Australian criminal law and safeguard its strategic interests. When each Australian state enacts its rules, the general duties of police officers are the responsibility of state police forces, which in effect are accountable to a member of the government (usually the police minister). These troops handle out the majority of general police, including those in urban areas, throughout the State. Other departments of the state government may also have investigatory powers inside their jurisdiction for particular crimes. The northern half still has its security force, but law enforcement is regulated by the federal government in other jurisdictions of Australia (along with the Australian Capital Territory). 

The physical health of a person determines his/her efficacy both personally and professionally. On one hand, where a police personnel’s duty is to maintain resident’s safety and security and safeguard the law and order in the state, fitness and health remain a primary concern in their life. Workplace stress reduction systems with innovative techniques have become an essential part of numerous organisations in order to enhance work effectiveness. In 1998 Andhra Pradesh government launched “Arogya Bhadratha“, a comprehensive health scheme for police staff and members of their families. The programme provides expenditures for the treatment of an exhaustive list of serious medical conditions. To prioritize catering to police health requirements, approved private and government hospitals throughout the state are impaneled and paid from the personnel’s corpus fund allocation along with the government’s allocated medical reimbursement grant. Preventive plans in government organizations and studies of occupational stress among police officers in India, however, are constrained

Since the law enforcement work environment provides an opportunity to monitor and provide quick interventions to support healthy lifestyles, special screening schemes should be initiated to regulate the progression of hypertension. Police officers with prehypertension should be informed about the lifestyle changes to manage blood pressure as an initial treatment. Another important intervention to prevent an upsurge in the occurrence of chronic heart disease is to prevent the consumption of tobacco products.

Implementation of good interventions and modification of the environment and culture of police making it conducive to changing lifestyles is extremely essential. Innovative initiatives such as attempting to educate the cops on occupational health, mentoring workplace employees and provide work environment health programs, interacting specialist health advisors and therapists to undertake schemes, using email services, mHealth apps, as well as other methods such as advertisements and workshops to give and raise awareness about health messages must be considered. Work atmosphere should be promoted which includes encouragement and suggestions for a lifestyle change. Provision of sufficient pay, appreciation for good service, timely time-bound promotions, reduced working hours, and incentives to pursue higher education are some of the other measures for increasing police well-being.

Police officers form a large professional community that operates continuously in challenging conditions. Police are becoming fragile and helpless in an unusual way as incidents have outstripped their professional ability to tackle or even benefit from them. As social problems affect society, the state faces new challenges, new demands are made for it and it is exposed to new attacks, the police force has to be reformed. Even before the pressure becomes severe, tailor-made programs that develop effective coping strategies such as stress reduction workshops, yoga classes, and many other programs should be arranged regularly for the city police according to gender, position, and job style. In addition to a hazard monitoring system for tracking the risks of occupational injury and disease among police officers, diseases and mortality are yet to be developed.


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