Date of Conferral
For decades, stress has been scientifically studied and found to have effects on the law enforcement community. Furthermore, scholars have thoroughly studied the correlation between stress and the law enforcement occupation which has been proven to affect their well-being. Although there is currently ample literature on stress and police officers, to date there has been little research on factors associated with stress and SWAT police officers. Using Lazarus and Folkman's cognitive theory of stress and coping as the foundation, the purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore how SWAT police officers cope with stress while on duty and off duty and the factors that cause them stress. Participants included 5 retired police officers who were members of a SWAT team. Moustakas' framework design of phenomenological study assisted in identifying common themes that emerged from participant interviews. Study findings indicate that the primary stressor to SWAT officers was responding to high-risk missions or operations and that law enforcement agencies generally fail to provide the resources needed to cope with stress. In addition, the main coping resources used by tactical officers were self-initiated activities such as exercise, spending time with family, and hobbies (e.g., hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and sports entertainment). The results of this study encourage positive social change by advancing recommendations to law enforcement leadership to develop coping resources for tactical officers that are specific to their unique needs. The study also increases awareness and knowledge of the coping resources that SWAT officers need and advocating for new programs and trainings aimed at reducing stress for them, which may prevent officer burnout and improve public safety response.