The Impact of Personal Threat on Police Officers' Responses to Critical Incident Stressors

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Abstract

Abstract:

The relationship of type of critical incident (CI) stressor with peritraumatic responses and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms was examined in police. Officers (N = 662) provided narratives of their most distressing CI experienced during police service and completed measures of related peritraumatic responses and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Narratives were reliably rated (κ = .80–1.0) on seven categories emerging from a series of factor analyses of a measure of critical incident stressors. Additional analysis revealed that the classification of primary narrative features required only five categories (personal life threat, duty-related violence, encountering physical or sexual assault victims, exposure to civilian death, other). When analyzed by further collapsing these five categories into high versus low personal threat, officers whose narratives contained high personal threat reported more peritraumatic dissociation, peritraumatic emotional distress, and current hyperarousal symptoms. Results suggest that greater personal threat during a CI may place an officer at greater risk for subsequent distress.

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