A Study of Compassion Fatigue among Police Officers
Law enforcement officers are chronically exposed to traumatic events and work-related stressors. The consistent exposure to physical, cultural, and psychological stressors may be related to compassion fatigue. The design of this study was non-experimental using survey methods. A non-random sample of 48 police officers was surveyed online to determine their self-reported levels of compassion fatigue and burnout using the Professional Quality of Life Scale 5 (ProQOL 5; Stamm, 2009). In addition, the researcher developed and administered the Societal Stress Survey (SSS) to examine police officers’ perceptions of stress related to three areas of stressors identified in the literature: felonious police killings, cultural tension, and negative media coverage. The composite score and the subscale scores on the ProQOL 5 were correlated to the composite and subscale scores on the SSS. Positive, moderate correlations were found between the mean composite compassion fatigue score on the ProQOL and mean SSS subscale scores of felonious police killings (r = .468) and negative media coverage (r = .507). The mean SSS subscale score on the cultural tension subscale had a strong, positive correlation with the mean compassion fatigue subscale (r=.633). Almost 10% of the police officers in this sample reported high levels of compassion fatigue and 21% reported high levels of burnout. Further research is needed to determine and address stressors specific to law enforcement and to prevent the onset of compassion fatigue in police personnel.