Public Safety Response to Civil Unrest

The consequences of the current environment affect law enforcement officers and are compounded by the
negative psychological impacts, which already exist as a side effect of this uniquely trying profession. Keep in
mind of all this is occurring in the midst of a global pandemic.

These consequences may include the following:

Officer in Wearing Crowd Control Gear
  • Unprecedented numbers of police chief and law enforcement officer firings, unplanned or early retirements and resignations.
  • Budget cuts
  • Difficulty recruiting
  • Distractions from ‘crime fighting’8
  • Increased overtime and changes in shifts
  • Decreased staffing
  • Fractured community/law enforcement relations
  • Lowered morale
  • Limited proactivity due to fear of scrutiny
  • Increased personal stress on officers and department personnel9,10
  • Officer fatigue due to shift changes and other stressors
  • Inability to escape the current environment:
    • 24-hour news cycle
    • Social media posts regarding current events
    • Officers are repeatedly asked their opinion on current events, both on and off duty
  • Unhealthy coping mechanisms11
    • Substance abuse (both alcohol and drugs)12
    • Excessive or unhealthy eating habits
    • Extreme exercise
    • Obsessive behavior surrounding social media and mainstream news
    • Withdrawal from family, friends, peers, and/or activities once enjoyed
    • Self-destructive behavior
  • Fear of exposure to COVID-1913
  • Additional shifts on family schedules and dynamics Financial strain – childcare, education, and/or tutoring costs
  • Decreased support from family due to growing concerns for their officer’s safety
    • Pressure from family and friends to resign early or call out sick
  • Stressed interpersonal relationships
  • Feelings of betrayal when anti-police sentiments are expressed by family members or friends, both in person and on social media
  • Family members are anxious and unsure about how to support or talk to their family members in blue

Related Publication


Some Wounds Are Invisible (2013)

Valor Officer Safety and Wellness Program, Bureau of Justice Assistance

Know the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how to seek help through your department-directed employee assistance program.

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