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Public Policy and Administration


Tim Bagwell


Most law enforcement officers experience a traumatic event within the first 3 years of duty but may not receive proper mental health training in the police academy to prepare them for a career in law enforcement, and little is understood about police academy training regarding mental health. Using secondary traumatic stress (STS) as a conceptual framework, the purpose of this qualitative study was to understand the perspective of law officers on the usefulness of academy training to prevent or manage mental health issues that may arise from law enforcement duty. Data were collected from 35 law enforcement officers in a Southern state through an online, qualitative survey. These data were inductively coded and subjected to a thematic analysis procedure. Findings indicate that both STS and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are shunned topics in the law enforcement community. Additionally, respondents perceived that reconstructing police academy training manuals to include personal stress management and increasing awareness of STS may better protect law enforcement officers and enhance community relations while providing a more sustainable police force. The positive social change implications of this study include recommendations to police academies to include mental health training and preparation as part of early academy training to promote better mental health among police officers and reduce the negative effects of STS and PTSD.

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