An Essay on The stress of Cops at Work

Topics: Hate CrimeWork

In this assignment, we were asked to write an essay about the stress that police officers experience on the job. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that law enforcement is a stressful occupation. If it wasn’t, many more people would be applying for the position. That being said, there has been a growing disconnect and disenchantment in recent years between the public and law enforcement. Protests against police is nothing new, especially in the Northeastern states.

This author’s father was killed in the Newark riots in 1967 in Newark, New Jersey. This riot happened because of a civilian arrest and beating by police that citizens in Newark thought was unfair and violated civil rights Not surprisingly, civil rights protests gained huge popularity in 1968. Causing a type of chronic stress on both the public and law enforcement. Perhaps this needless death had some small contribution with the wide spread support of civil rights in this country along with thousands of other sacrifices throughout the years.

Law enforcement, the public and government are three legs of a wide relationship that must be balanced in order to be successful. Granted this balance has been challenging in recent years with the protests against a perceived imbalance between law enforcement and the public. This relationship is tenuous at the best of times, especially in high crime neighborhoods. However, violent crime has been going down in the past twenty-five years in this country. But there have been upticks in the early 2000’s for two years and again for two years in the mid-teens of the 2000’s.

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This is good from a government and law enforcement perspective, but the public perception is still that violent crime has been steadily rising. In the three-leg balance between law enforcement, the public and government, the public has not been educated on these points and so there is understandable tension.

Since the general public have more interaction with law enforcement than their government, it is hardly surprising that they lash out at police officers. The fact that the public has been taking swings at law enforcement regularly since the late 1960’s, suggests that there is a long running disconnect that has obviously been overlooked. This disconnect translates to very real stress for any police officer. In our text, in Chapter 3, one can read about foot patrol experiments in the 1970’s in keeping with Peel’s original views. While there was no appreciable decrease in crime levels, the public’s perception of police officers was affected. Area residents felt better and safer with the renewed foot patrols. This is not only a feeling of satisfaction for civilians but officers as well. In Flint, Michigan in the 1980’s, foot officers ‘had a higher level of job satisfaction than motor officers’. This explains the public and law enforcement leg of the relationship. What about the connection between the police and government?

There have been strains in recent months in New York City specifically. The City and the State of New York has recently passed legislation concerning bail reform. This isn’t exactly news; several states have enacted the same legislation over the years. What makes New York unique is the way that judges are left out of the decision process for minor offenders. Penalties for minor infractions, misdemeanors and non-violent offenses were dropped completely. Before, judges had the discretion to weigh flight risk and bail in allowing the release of the offender, this is not the case with new laws in New York. The legislature in Albany argue that the bail system as it currently stands, unfairly targets the poor, non-violent offender in a community. A habitual offender can be released into society to continue past criminal activities which may have been violent crimes, but this evidence was not allowed in the latest non-violent court case. Understandably, this has made law enforcement in the city of New York a little nervous causing stress that otherwise would not have been there had the recent legislation been the same as some other states.

This type of stress is very real. Suppose this officer arrested a person for assault, a person known for violent outbursts, suddenly they find that this offender is back on the street the same day? Now, the arresting officer has to wonder if this offender is going to seek retribution on him or her. This type of government action prompted the NYPD Police Commissioner, Dermot Shea to call out the legislature in Albany for failing to protect the public and needlessly endangering police officers. Just this past weekend, in New York City, there was a targeted, bifurcated incident when a criminal with a firearm shot at police in a van and then calmly walked into the 41st precinct and started blasting away at anyone in sight.

According to our text in Chapter 6, this would be termed “traumatic stress”. The NYPD Commissioner put this incident squarely on the desk of Mayor DeBlasio and the legislature. A woman was released immediately for a violent anti-Semitic attack for allegedly slapping three Orthodox Jewish women in Manhattan. Since the original charges were state charges, she was released without bail because the new legislation states that if the assault caused no lasting wounds then bail would be dismissed. The federal government has stepped in and will try to levy a hate crime on the woman. Being a police officer will always be one of the most stressful jobs out there, this is not in dispute. But there must be a healthy and balanced relationship between the public, our government and law enforcement.


  1.  Peak, K.J., Sousa, W.H. (2018) “Policing America” (9th ed) New York, Pearson
  2.  Coleman, A. (2017) Time Magazine, ‘A Riot Started in Newark 50 Years Ago. It Shouldn’t Have Been a Surprise’ July 12 2017
  3.  Gramlich, J. (2019) Pew Research, ‘5 Facts about Crime in the U.S.’ Oct 17, 2019
  4.  Law, T. (2020) Time Magazine ‘ ‘Assassination’ Attempts: 2 New York City Police Officers Shot in Separate Incidents’ Feb 9 2020
  5.  Moore, T. (2020) New York Post ‘NYPD top cop peddling ‘false narratives’ about dangers of bail reform, City Council warns’ Feb 6, 2020
  6.  McKinley, J, et. al., (2019) New York Times, ‘Why Abolishing Bail for Some Crimes Has Law Enforcement on Edge’ Dec 31, 2019,
  7.  Gajanan, M. (2020) Time Magazine, “Woman Accused of Slapping 3 Jewish Women in New York City Charged With Federal Hate Crimes. Her Case Raises Questions for New York’s Bail Reform Laws” Jan 29, 2020

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