The following two case studies provide the reader with some insights concerning how quickly stress can be generated and its effect on police officers; also included are some of the difficult decisions that supervisors, managers, and administrators have to make regarding stressful situations involving their subordinates.
Case Study #1 Near Shootout at K-9 Corral
The headlines read “Near Shootout at K-9 Corral.” The department is stunned by the events of Sunday evening. During a weekly training session, K-9 Officer Tom Watson pointed his duty weapon at Officer Jack Connolly and threatened to shoot him during an argument. Fortunately, no one was injured, but Watson is under investigation for assault. Officer Watson’s friends are not surprised. Since joining the K-9 Unit three months ago, he has been the subject of intense teasing, especially by Connolly, who liked to imitate Watson’s stuttered speech. Watson is very sensitive about his speech and attended three years of therapy at the local university before gaining enough confidence to take the police officer test. Lately, Connolly’s teasing has become more personal—he has imitated Watson’s stutter over the police radio. When other officers and dispatchers began to join in, Watson asked Sgt. Aldous to speak with Connolly. Aldous explained that all new guys got teased and warned him not to make the situation worse by complaining. For the next two weeks, Watson called in sick on the six days that he and Connolly would have worked together. Just prior to the incident, Watson’s fiancé had broken up with him (telling Watson she had a new love interest), he had learned that he owed a significant amount of money in back taxes to the government, and he was bitten on the hand by another K-9 handler’s dog during practice exercises. When Connolly initiated his teasing on the day in question, Watson burst into a rage of vulgarities and threats, drew his service revolver, and pointed it at Connolly; other officers tackled and disarmed Watson.
Questions for Discussion
What were some of the issues and precipitating factors leading to this incident?
Were there any warning signs? If so, what were they?
Could this incident have been avoided? If so, how?
What were Sgt. Aldous’s responsibilities in this matter? Did he meet those responsibilities?
Case Study #2 An Agency at the End of Its ROP
Hill City is a relatively small community of about 80,000 people, whose police department has developed an aggressive Repeat Offender Program (ROP). Its eight hand-picked and specially trained officers engage in forced entries into apartments and houses, serving search warrants on the “worst of the worst” wanted felons. Their work is dangerous and physical, thus all of ROP’s officers are in top physical condition. The supervisor overseeing the ROP team, Sgt. Lyle, was a drill instructor in the military prior to joining the force. He has developed an impressive training regimen for the ROP officers. They usually work out on their own time at least once a week, have high esprit de corps, and pride themselves on never losing a suspect or a physical confrontation. They often go out partying together to “blow off steam.” They generally consider themselves to be elite and “head and shoulders above the rest.” One day, while the team was attempting to serve a robbery warrant at a local motel, the suspect escaped through a rear window and led three ROP officers on a foot pursuit. After running extremely hard for about six blocks, the officers became exhausted and were unable to maintain their chase.
The following week, the same suspect robbed a fast-food establishment, and during his escape he killed a clerk and seriously wounded a police officer. Irate because the ROP team failed to catch the suspect earlier, many Hill City patrol officers begin to criticize the ROP team—whose members they consider to be overly exalted prima donnas—with one officer stating to a newspaper reporter that the entire team should be disciplined and that ROP should be disbanded. In one instance, a fight nearly ensued between two officers. The situation has now reached a boiling point, causing nearly all officers to take one side or another, fomenting a lot of stress and turmoil within the small agency, and causing officer requests for sick leave and vacation time to spike as never before. Sensing the urgency of the situation, and that his agency is being torn apart both from within and without, the chief asks all administrators (two deputy chiefs) and middle managers (four lieutenants) for input to deal with the public and the press, reduce the internal strife, and determine if any procedural or training issues require the department’s attention. He further asks his six supervisors to provide input concerning means of reducing or ending the high level of hostility among patrol officers.
Questions for Discussion
Should Sgt. Lyle shoulder any responsibility for the suspect situation and its aftermath (dissension within the department)? What kinds of inquiries might you make to determine whether or not this is the case?
Given that this seems to have become an agency-wide stress problem, what might the deputy chiefs, lieutenants, and sergeants recommend to the chief?
Should the ROP team be disbanded or continued under different supervision, training, and methods of operation
The citation provided is a guideline. Please check each citation for accuracy before use.
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