SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 2006, 32 (3), 72-78SA Tydskrif vir Bedryfsielkunde, 2006, 32 (3), 72-78 OCCUPATIONAL STRESS IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE SERVICE WorkWell: Research Unit for People, Policy and Performance North-West University Policing has been described as a stressful occupation. The objectives of this study were to develop and validate ameasure that could be used by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to identify the frequency and intensity ofoccupational stressors and to assess the differences between the stressors for race, rank and gender groups. A cross-sectional survey design was used. Stratified random samples (N = 2145) were taken of police members of nineprovinces in South Africa. The Police Stress Inventory was developed as a measuring instrument. Three internallyconsistent factors were extracted through principal component analysis with a direct oblimin rotation. These factorswere labelled Job Demands, Lack of Support and Crime-related Stressors. The most important stressors identifiedwere other officers not doing their job, inadequate or poor quality equipment, inadequate salaries, and seeingcriminals go free. Analysis of variance showed differences in stressors for rank, race and gender groups. Key wordsStress, police, job demands, lack of support, crime-related stress If one considers the socio-economic and political turmoil of the 2000). Therefore, it is necessary to identify the occupational past 30 years, and the changes resulting from the dissolution of stressors of police members in South Africa. This can only be apartheid, police work is probably particularly stressful in South done if a valid and reliable measuring instrument of Africa (Gulle, Tredoux & Foster, 1998). The South African Police occupational stress is available. Service (SAPS) has also undergone tremendous transformationsince the first democratic elections in 1994. Transformation Currently, no reliable and valid measures of occupational stress from a police force to a police service is taking place, the rank exist in South Africa that could be used to diagnose the structure was changed, and an affirmative action policy was frequency and intensity of stressors in the police service. A implemented (Van der Walt, 2002). reliable and valid measure of stress could be an importantinstrument for the early identification and successful treatment Anshel (2000) highlighted three underlying postulates in stress of stress within the police service. Discovering which stressors research with police officers. Firstly, extreme or unusual are most pertinent to police officers in South Africa could lead external stimuli that are perceived as threatening will be to these stressors being addressed during selection, stress stressful and cause significant changes in psychological, management workshops, and organisational development physiological and behavioural responses. The second stress postulate is that the failure to cope effectively with short-termsudden stress leads to long-term, chronic stress, which might in The objective of this study was to develop and validate a stress turn inhibit the body's immune system, leading to an array of measure specific to the policing environment, by focusing on medical illnesses and diseases. Lastly, sources of police stress typical stressors that have been identified in previous research, that are ongoing and long-term will result in burnout, reduced as well as unique stressors in the South African context. The motivation, poor performance, and eventual dropout from the second objective was to compare the occupational stressors for police profession (Violanti & Aron, 1993). different race, rank and gender groups.
Occupational stress has been related to heart disease, Occupational stress hypertension, upper respiratory tract infections, peptic ulcers, The Spielberger State-Trait (STP) model of occupational stress reduced immunity, migraines, alcoholism, depression, suicidal (Spielberger, Vagg, & Wasala, 2003) conceptualizes stress as a tendencies, anxiety, as well as other mental disorders (Lord, Gray complex process that consists of three major components, & Pond, 1991; Muntaner, Tien, Eaton & Garrison, 1991). Withinorganisations, these effects translate into decreased performance namely sources of stress that are encountered in the work and motivation, increased health care costs, disability payments, environment, the perception and appraisal of a particular sick leave, absenteeism and turnover (Aldana, Sutton, Jacobson stressor by an employee, and the emotional reactions that are & Quirk, 1996; Slate, Johnson & Wells, 2000). Increased rates of evoked when a stressor is appraised as threatening.
illness, post-traumatic stress, medical boarding, burnout, The STP model of occupational stress focuses on the perceived alcohol abuse and suicides, as well as decreased levels of job severity and frequency of occurrence of two major categories satisfaction and job performance, as compared to norms for the of stressors, namely job pressures and lack of support general population, are reported in research with policemembers (Anshel, 2000; Nel & Burgers, 1998; Nel, 1994; (Spielberger et al., 2003). The STP model recognizes the Rothmann & Agathagelou, 2000; Rothmann & Strijdom, 2002). importance of individual differences in personality traits indetermining how workplace stressors are perceived and Since policing is generally accepted as being a highly stressful appraised. Occupational stress is defined as the mind-body occupation, it presents an appealing context for the study of the arousal resulting from physical and/or psychological job effects of work stress (Anshel, 2000). Besides being a demands. The appraisal of a stressor as threatening leads to organisation with problems of hierarchy and administrative anxiety and anger and the associated activation of the ineffectiveness, police organisations present a further unique autonomic nervous system. If severe and persistent, the challenge. This challenge comes in the form of potentially resulting physical and psychological strain may cause adverse traumatic experiences, such as life-threatening physical assault behavioural consequences (Spielberger et al., 2003). Employees or witnessing disturbing images of death (Stephens & Long, evaluate their work environment in terms of the severity and OCCUPATIONAL STRESS IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE SERVICE frequency of occurrence of specific job demands and pressure This study focuses on three biographical variables, namely rank, and the level of support provided by other employees gender and race. International studies showed that police officers (supervisors and co-workers), as well as organisational features report varying amounts of work stressors based upon rank (Brown (policies and procedures). Failing to take the frequency of & Campbell, 1990; Brown, et al., 1996; Kaufmann & Beehr, 1989), occurrence of a particular stressor into account may contribute race and ethnicity (Violanti & Aron, 1995), and gender (Wexler & to overestimating the effects of highly stressful situations that Logan, 1983). Cooper and Bramwell (1992) also showed potential rarely occur, while underestimating the effects of moderately sources of stress to vary between different subcultures and status stressful events that are frequently experienced. groups within the same organisation; while Terry and Calan (1997)indicated that those higher in the organisational hierarchy In line with the STP model, t wo broad categories of experience higher levels of perceived stress. occupational stressors in policing have been identified(Alexander, Walker, Innes & Irving, 1993; Biggam, Power,MacDonald, Carcary & Moodie, 1997; Brown & Campbell, 1990, 1994). The first category to present a significant source ofstress is the organisational aspects of police work, such as a Research approach lack of confidence in management, lack of internal A cross-sectional survey design was used to achieve the research communication and continuous organisational change.
objectives. This design allows for the description of the Secondly, the nature of police work, such as physical threat, population at a specific point in time, and is also suited to the force, exposure to danger, facing the unknown and shift work development and validation of questionnaires (Shaughnessy & come into play. The most prominent of these has been Zechmeister, 1997). identified as the organisational factor (Crank & Caldero, 1991;Crowe & Stradling, 1993; Evans & Coman, 1993; Hart, Wearing & Headey, 1995; Kop & Euwema, 2001). Factor analytic studies Random samples (N = 2145) were taken from police stations in of police stress have recovered different numbers of factors – eight South African provinces. Stations were divided into small eight (Hart et al., 1995), five (Crowe & Stradling, 1993) and (fewer than 25 staff members), medium (25–100 staff members) three factors (Brown, Fielding & Grover, 1999; Mitchell, Cowan and large (more than 100 staff members). All police members at & Hamilton, 1998) have been reported. randomly identified small and medium stations in each of the Gulle et al. (1998) showed that in comparison to American provinces were asked to complete the questionnaire. At the large stressors, which were all inherent in the nature of the job, South stations, stratified random samples were taken according to African police stressors were more organisationally oriented.
gender and race. Table 1 presents some of the characteristics of Koortzen (1996, p. 62) indicated that the three most prominent the participants.
individual police stressors in a South African sample were a lack of supervisory and management skills, inappropriate sentences CHARACTERS OF THE PARTICIPANTS (N = 2145) handed down by the courts and emotional detachment from thefamily. In more recent work, Peltzer (2001) found duty-relatedviolent injury (i.e. shooting), pursuit of an armed suspect and response to a scene involving the death of a child as the threemost stressful incidents relating to emotional intensity in a South African sample. Statistics in August 2005 showed that police units against family violence, child abuse and sexual offences had 254vacancies (20% of total number of jobs) (Basson, 2005). The average number of criminal cases managed by each detective vary from 32 (Northern Cape) to 52 (Eastern Cape), with a national average of 43. A rule of thumb is that each detective should not investigate more than 18 cases. A total of 43 007 criminal cases are investigated by a total number of 1008 Senior superintendent detectives. Therefore, police members (and specificallydetectives) experience high job demands. Occupational stress and biographical variables It is apparent that stress is not experienced uniformly by policemembers, but varies from one individual to another (Violanti & Aron, 1995). Studies have provided evidence that individual personality traits, for example, locus of control and type-Apersonality, play substantial roles in occupational stress(Cooper, Kirkcaldy & Brown, 1994; Davey, 1994). However, Table 1 shows that nearly half the sample was made up of black reported studies of occupational stress, concerned with members (42,05%). Mostly inspectors were included (50,08%).
biographical differences, such as position and years of service, Roughly equal numbers of officers in small, medium and large do not appear to have been as fruitful. For example, after stations were included. The sample is predominantly made up of conducting a meta-analysis of studies investigating the males. More than half the sample (56,16%) had Grade 12 relationship between gender and occupational stress, schooling, equal to 12 years of formal schooling. The mean age Martocchio and O'Leary (1989) concluded that there were no of the participants was 34,75 (SD = 6,34). Furthermore, the mean differences in experienced stress between males and females. It number of years of participants in the SAPS was 13,02 years (SD may be that there is virtually no variation in occupational stress = 6,22). Furthermore, participants have been in their positions among biographically differentiated groups of police members.
for an average of 4,29 years (SD = 3,33).
However, such homogeneity, particularly in a large policeorganisation, would appear unlikely. Moreover, some differences Measuring instruments have been reported in a small number of studies (Brown & The Police Stress Inventory (PSI) was developed for purposes of Campbell, 1990; Brown, Cooper & Kirkcaldy, 1996; Kaufmann & this study. The PSI consists of 88 items. A number of studies have been published regarding stressors specific to the policing PIENA AR, ROTHMANN environment (Anon, 1986; Bartol, Bergen, Volckens & Knoras, third factor seems to address a lack of support (from 1992; Biggam et al., 1997; Brown & Campbell, 1990; Brown & colleagues, supervisors and the organisation). The items Fielding, 1993; Brown et al., 1996; Crank & Caldero, 1991; that loaded on this factor are related to the equipment Kirkcaldy, Cooper & Ruffalo, 1995; Koortzen, 1996; Kop & being used, the opportunities for advancement, poor pay, Euwema, 2001; Kop, Euwema & Schaufeli, 1999; Loo, 1984; a lack of cooperation and motivation among officers, and Patterson, 1992; Terry, 1981; Violanti & Aron, 1994; Wexler & a lack of staff. Logan, 1983; White, Lawrence, Biggerstaff & Grubb, 1985). Thesesources were used in the construction of the current instrument.
In line with previous research (Biggam et al., 1997; Spielberger et PRINCIPAL COMPONENTS FACTOR ANALYSIS WITH A DIRECT al., 2003; Thomas, 1988), this study addressed both the severity OBLIMIN ROTATION ON THE PSI and frequency of stressors. Firstly, participants rated each of 44items regarding the intensity of stress on a 9-point scale.
Secondly, the frequency part of the questionnaire asked howmany times in the last six months the source of stress had been Frequent changes from boring to demanding activities A questionnaire was developed to gather information about the Assignment of increased responsibility demographic characteristics of the participants. This questionnaire gave participants the option of supplying their Meeting deadlines name and service number. Other information that was gatheredincluded: province, age, gender, years of service, years in current Assignment of new or unfamiliar duties position, educational qualifications, marital status, and presence Having to go to court of medical conditions. Insufficient personal time (e.g. coffee breaks, lunch) Statistical analysisThe statistical analysis was carried out with the help of the SPSS Dealing with crisis situations program (SPSS Inc., 2003). First, a simple principal components Making critical on-the-spot decisions analysis was conducted on the 44 intensity items of the PSI for a Too much supervision sample of 2145 police officers. The eigenvalues and scree plot Attending to incidences of domestic violence were studied to determine the number of factors. Second, aprincipal components analysis with a direct Oblimin rotation Excessive paperwork was conducted if factors were related, and a principal component Performing tasks not in job description analysis with a Varimax rotation was used if the obtained factors Covering work for another employee were not related (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001). Cronbach alpha coefficients were used to assess the internal consistency of thePSI (Clark & Watson, 1995). Frequent interruptions Reorganisation and transformation within Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to determine the significance of differences between occupational Periods of inactivity stress of race, rank and gender groups. MANOVA tests whether A fellow officer killed in the line of duty mean differences amongst groups on a combination ofdependent variables are likely to have occurred by chance Killing someone in the line of duty (Tabachnick, & Fidell, 2001). In MANOVA, a new dependent A forced arrest or being physically attacked variable, which maximizes group differences, is created from the Having to handle a large crowd/mass demonstration set of dependent variables. One-way analysis is then performedon the newly created dependent variable. Wilk's Lambda was used to test the significance of the effects. When an effect was Delivering a death message or bad news to someone significant in MANOVA, ANOVA was used to discover which Having to deal with the media dependent variables were affected. Because multiple ANOVAs Seeing criminals go free (for example because of lack were used, a Bonferroni-type adjustment was made for inflated of evidence, court leniency) Inadequate or poor quality equipment Insufficient personnel to handle an assignment Lack of opportunity for advancement Lack of recognition for good work A simple principal component analysis was carried out on thePSI. Six components, which explained 58,25% of the total Inadequate support by supervisor variance, had eigenvalues larger than one. However, the scree Fellow workers not doing their job plot showed that three factors could be extracted. These three Inadequate salary factors explained 52,64% of the total variance. Principal Experiencing negative attitudes toward the component analysis with a direct oblimin rotation showed inter- factor correlations between Factor 1 and Factor 2 (r = 0,38), and Poor or inadequate supervision between Factor 2 and Factor 3 (r = 0,41). The pattern matrix ofthe PSI is reported in Table 2. Poorly motivated co-workers Items loading on the first factor relate to job demands in Competition for advancement the policing environment. They deal with, amongst otherthings, personal time, personal responsibility, the unpleasant Difficulty getting along with supervisor nature of administrative tasks, and the time spent at work. Lack of participation in policy-making decisions The second factor consists of stressors mostly found only Assignment of disagreeable duties in a police environment, including death (of either a civilian or fellow officer), having to deal with violent or potentially Conflicts with other departments violent sit uations and having to handle conf lict. The Personal insult from customer/consumer/colleague OCCUPATIONAL STRESS IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE SERVICE The descriptive statistics and alpha coefficients for the extracted Lack of recognition for good work PSI factors are reported in Table 3. Inadequate support by supervisor Fellow workers not doing their job Inadequate salary DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS AND ALPHA COEFFICIENTS Experiencing negative attitudes toward OF THE PSI FACTORS Poor or inadequate supervision Poorly motivated co-workers Competition for advancement Difficulty getting along with supervisor Lack of participation in policy- Assignment of disagreeable duties Conflicts with other departments Personal insult from customer/ Lack of Support Intensity Table 4 shows that the severity (i.e. the product of intensity andfrequency) was the highest for the following stressors: Seeing Table 3 shows that the alpha coefficients of the three extracted criminals go free (because of lack of evidence), inadequate or factors of the PSI are highly acceptable compared to the poor quality equipment, insufficient personnel to handle an guideline of 0,70 (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994). The values can assignment, lack of opportunity for advancement, lack of be considered high and thus explain a large proportion of the recognition for good work, fellow workers not doing their jobs, variance in the different scales (Clark & Watson, 1995). inadequate salary, experiencing negative attitudes toward theorganisation, poorly motivated co-workers and excessive The intensity and frequency of the stressors as measured by the PSI are reported in Table 4.
The MANOVAs of the differences between the occupational stress of race, rank and gender groups are presented in Table 5.
DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS OF STRESSOR ITENSITY AND FREQUENCY ITEMS FOR POLICE OFFICERS MANOVAS OF OCCUPATIONAL STRESSORS OF RACE, RANKAND GENDER GROUPS Frequency Severity Frequent changes from boring to demanding activities Assignment of increased responsibility Meeting deadlines Assignment of new or unfamiliar duties Having to go to court Insufficient personal time (e.g. coffee Table 5 shows that race impacted significantly on the combined dependent-variable of Occupational stressors (F(18, 5795) = Dealing with crisis situations 21,80, p < 0,01; Wilks' Lambda = 0,83; partial h2 = 0,06). This Making critical on-the-spot decisions effect was moderate (6% of the variance explained). Analysis of Too much supervision each dependent variable, using a Bonferroni adjusted alpha level Attending to incidences of domestic of 0,025, showed that race groups differed in terms of the intensity of Crime-related stressors (F(3, 2058) = 27,54, p < 0,01, Excessive paperwork partial h2 = 0,04) and Lack of support (F(3, 2058) = 25,88, p < Performing tasks not in job description 0,01, partial h2 = 0,04), as well as the frequency of Crime-related Covering work for another employee stressors (F(3, 2058) = 23,78, p < 0,01, partial h2 = 0,03) and Lack Frequent interruptions of support (F(3, 2058) = 17,90, p < 0,01, partial h2 = 0,03). Whites Reorganization and transformation and Indians (compared with blacks and Coloureds) more within the organisation intensely and frequently experienced higher levels of intensity Periods of inactivity of crime-related stress and experienced stress because of a lack of A fellow officer killed in the line of duty 6,09 support. However, whites experienced crime-related stressors less Killing someone in the line of duty frequently than blacks.
A forced arrest or being physically Table 5 also shows that rank impacted significantly on the Having to handle a large crowd/mass combined dependent variable Occupational stressors (F(24, 6877) = 4,81, p < 0,01; Wilks' Lambda = 0,94; partial h2 = 0,01).
This effect was small (1% of the variance explained). Analysis of Delivering a death message or bad each dependent variable, using a Bonferroni adjusted alpha level of 0,002, showed that ranks differed in terms of the intensity of Having to deal with the media Job demands (F(4, 1980) = 4,47, p < 0,01, partial h2 = 0,01) and Seeing criminals go free (because of lack of evidence) Lack of support (F(4, 1980) = 9,35, p < 0,01, partial h2 = 0,02), as Inadequate or poor quality equipment well as the frequency of Job demands (F(4, 1980) = 9,61, p < 0,01, Insufficient personnel to handle partial h2 = 0,02), Crime-related stressors (F(4, 1980) = 5,83, p < 0,01, partial h2 = 0,01) and Lack of support (F(4, 1980) = 10,29, Lack of opportunity for advancement p < 0,01, partial h2 = 0,02). Constables (compared with all other PIENA AR, ROTHMANN ranks) experienced lower intensity of stress regarding job high job demands, but they lack the resources to do their jobs demands and a lack of support. Constables (compared with properly (see Demerouti, Nachreiner, Bakker & Schaufeli, 2001). other ranks) also less frequently experienced job demands,crime-related stressors and lack of support. Also, police members Race impacted significantly on the experience of occupational with a rank of superintendent or higher less frequently stress in the SAPS. Although all the race groups experienced experienced crime-related stress than sergeants, inspectors and more stress because of a lack of support (compared to the other occupational stressors), the results showed that whites andIndians (compared with blacks and Coloureds) experienced it Lastly, Table 5 shows that gender impacted significantly on the more intensely and frequently. Support (as measured by the PSI) combined dependent variable of Occupational stressors (F(6, includes salary, promotion and recognition. The availability of 2110) = 9,22, p < 0,01; Wilk's Lambda = 0,97; partial h2 = 0,03).
these resources is to an extent affected by the implementation of This effect was small (3% of the variance explained). Analysis of employment equity in the police. It is therefore understandable each dependent variable, using a Bonferroni adjusted alpha level that blacks would experience less stress about a lack of support of 0,005, showed that males and females differed in terms of the than other groups. On the other hand, Coloureds did not intensity of Crime-related stressors (F(1, 2116) = 20,29, p < 0,01, experience more stress about a lack of support than blacks.
partial h2 = 0,01) as well as their Intensity (F(1, 2116) = 11,89, However, it should be kept in mind that the Coloured police p < 0,01, partial h2 = 0,01. Females (compared with males) officers who were included in the sample were predominantly experienced crime-related stressors less intensely and frequently.
employed in the Western Cape and Northern Cape, where theywere not threatened by employment equity to the same extentthan Whites and Indians in other provinces.
Rank also impacted significantly on the experience of The objectives of this study were to develop and validate a occupational stress in the police. Constables (compared with all measure that could be used by the South African Police Service other ranks) experienced lower intensity of stress regarding job (SAPS) to identify the frequency and intensity of occupational demands and a lack of support. Constables (compared with stressors, and to assess the differences between the stressors for other ranks) also less frequently experienced stress because of race, rank and gender groups. Three occupational stress factors job demands, crime-related stressors and lack of support.
were extracted, namely job demands, lack of support, and crime- Constables are not exposed to the demands and lack of support related stressors. Race, gender and rank were found to be related to the same extent and for such a lengthy period as other police to occupational stress.
officers. However, it should be kept in mind that constablesrepresented only about 7% of the total sample. Therefore, these The factors that were extracted show some similarity to factors results might be influenced by sampling error. Furthermore, the previously extracted in other studies of police stress (Alexander fact that members with the rank of superintendent or higher less et al., 1993; Biggam et al., 1997; Brown & Campbell, 1990, 1994; frequently experienced crime-related stress than sergeants, Brown et al., 1999; Mitchell et al., 1998). However, the factor inspectors and captains can be explained by the fact that they are structure obtained in this study supports the STP model of stress less involved with operational work. The fact that females are (Spielberger et al., 2003) and not a 5-factor model (Gulle et al., less operationally involved also explains why they experienced 1998). Factors that were extracted showed internal consistency, crime-related stressors less intensely and frequently. which point to the utility of the instrument developed in thecurrent research. In the total sample, stressors related to a lack of support couldbe regarded as severe. These include other officers' not doing The first factor emphasizes the demands placed on the individual their job, inadequate or poor quality equipment, inadequate in the fulfilment of his/her tasks as police officer, and thus the salary and lack of advancement opportunities, and lack of factor was labelled Job demands. The items loading on this factor recognition. The SAPS is also plagued by a lack of funds to fight refer to demands associated with police jobs. Specific stressors crime in a transforming society, which is characterized by a high that were experienced as severe in this sample of police crime level. This may explain the stress caused by inadequate or members, include excessive paperwork.
poor quality equipment. A lack of equipment has been shown togive rise to feelings of uncertainty and frustration. In a situation The second factor is a partial replication of one earlier identified already fraught with stress because of poor motivation, low pay (Brown et al., 1999; Mitchell et al., 1998). These items had to do and a legal system perceived as inadequate, feelings of with events that would only take place in the performance of a ineffectiveness are exacerbated by poor quality equipment. job as a police officer and was accordingly labelled Crime-relatedstressors. Although these seemed to be a source of acute stress,the relative infrequency with which they are experienced probably reduced their effect in the total sample. The reason forthis is that stressors such as a fellow officer killed in the line of It is suggested that the SAPS focus on providing officers with the duty, or killing someone in the line of duty tend to happen resources they need, both organisationally and personally.
infrequently, or they happen to a relatively small percentage of Sources of stress that should be a first priority for stress SAPS members. One stressor which formed part of this factor management programmes have been identified. This perhaps was quite severe, and that was seeing criminals go free. Probably places the onus on government for the provision of additional police members perceive that they invested much effort to find funding, but such funding could contribute directly to the criminals, but that they go free, either because of poor work by internal stability of the country and the economy. the police and/or by the legislative system. This study is the first step in developing a comprehensive profile The third factor seemingly relates to the role the organisation, of police stress in that it identified operant stressors in the SAPS.
supervisors and colleagues have in reducing the effects of job The next step would be to study stress holistically (both work demands; the functional support and achievement of work goals and non-work domains) and the additive and interactive effects and the stimulation of personal growth, learning and of stressors (Cooper, Dewe & O'Driscoll, 2001). It is further development. Accordingly, this factor was labelled Lack of suggested that the equivalence of stress factors be studied in support. Severe stressors in this regard included insufficient staff different racial and language groups. to handle assignments, lack of recognition for good work, fellowworkers not doing their jobs, and poor remuneration. Police The instrument that was developed in this research needs to be members' jobs will be extremely stressful if they are faced by further refined and retested in other police samples, and OCCUPATIONAL STRESS IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE SERVICE possibly among other Southern African police forces.
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