Levels of stress and coping strategies employed by Police Service Officers in Cape Town, South Africa
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The purpose of the study was to investigate levels of occupational stress experienced by police officers and the strategies used to cope with stress. The study findings are based on a sample of 104 police officers from six police stations within the Cape Town area. The results indicated that participants have been in the police service for an average of 7.72 years, and have worked an average of 4.8 years at their present stations. The majority of participants are between 26-30 years old (31%), male (75%), married(51%), coloured (65%), constables (45%), Afrikaans speaking (47%), and have a matric qualification (70%). The Spielberger Police Stress Survey and the Brief COPE Inventory were used as data collection tools. The findings indicated that police officers were experiencing moderate levels of stress as an outcome of inherent and organisational occupational demands. Secondly, police officers were more likely to use problem-focussed coping strategies to manage occupational stress than maladaptive strategies. The limited use of avoidance coping strategies was surprising, given the elevated prevalence of both physical and psychological disorders within the police context. The results indicated no significant association between levels of distress and avoidance coping strategies. The potential adverse outcomes of severe stress within this group affect society in general more than stress from most other occupational groups. Addressing persistent stress within the organisation is imperative in ensuring a well-functioning police service, and ultimately, a secure and healthy society.