Police Officers: Hazardous Working Conditions


Research design for the investigation of occupational hazards of police officers should be relevant to the topic and various issues that may rise in the process of pre-experiment. As such, it is necessary to outline the areas of main concern and expected outcomes that may be either supported or refuted in the process of investigation. The work of police officers is full of different hazards related to their lives and the lives of their families. As such, the research should be aimed at investigating the level of stress and effective means of coping with stress designed by corresponding institutions and agencies. A survey with police officers and their family members may assist in finding out how effective are stress-fighting methods provided by occupational services and why some police officers may refuse to acknowledge their stress and necessity for receiving qualified assistance from professionals.

Theory of Research Design

The purposes of designing a research method that would investigate some issues or problems are the validity. For instance, if one researcher is concerned about some fact and wants to find out some relation or outcomes, he/she should conduct a research while the outcomes of the research may appear to be invalid due to inappropriate research design. However, as suggested by McLaughlin (2006), the research question cannot be answered correctly or incorrectly because the only purpose of the research is to support or refute the hypothesis.

Hagan (2010) suggests that rival causal factors are variables (pp. 66-67) that should be excluded in the process of investigation. In this respect, a researcher should design a method in the way that eliminates all variables that cannot be measured or controlled for internal validity purposes. The experimental design is the plan that enables a research to conduct an investigation in a well-organized manner. As suggested by Hagan (2010), the experimental design is the most appropriate way to eliminate variables or rival causal factors (p. 74). A pre-experimental design is the design which has one of the following problems: an investigated group is not representative, the control group was not introduced to compare results, or the equivalence of two groups is questionable. Quasi-experimental designs “do not use random assignment of groups and instead employ matching or other means of obtaining equivalence of groups” (Hagan, 2010, p. 74).

The research design is the method for shaping the research activity with the aim of controlling the rival causal factors that may invalidate outcomes of the research. Time-series designs are useful in criminal justice studies when it is necessary to investigate only one variable such as the behavior of criminals before and after some interventions. The significance of the Kansas City gun experiment is the high level of performance in the target beat when law enforcement was actively used to seize and exclude concealed guns.

The main disadvantage of mail surveys is non-response of respondents. The possible ways for eliminating this disadvantage includes the following: “Follow-up, offering remuneration, altruistic appeals, use of attractive format, sponsorship, endorsements, personalization, shortened format, and good timing” (Hagan, 2010, p. 132). Inaccurate reporting is the main disadvantage of self-reporting which can be fixed by suggesting patterns/schemes that should be followed instead of open-ended questions. The fact that internet surveys are self-administered should be taken into account during the research. Misunderstandings and confusions are to be eliminated in the face-to-face interview as a benefit of interviewing as a data-gathering technique. False reporting and sampling bias as well as a number of other disadvantages of victim surveys are related to methodology issue in such research. The questionnaire wording can lead to misunderstanding of the question by a respondent and result in an irrelevant answer that would influence the outcome. Qualitative data-gathering strategy can be applied to the natural field without pressure on the respondent. As such, observation is more appropriate than a survey in case behavior of a person should be analyzed.

“Field notes or diaries” and “mnemonics” are the main aspects of the participant observation studies including other ways of observation and making notes and not becoming a member of the group observed. Case studies are important for the criminal justice research as they enable the researcher to analyze how a similar situation has been approached and what methods may appear to be ineffective; in other words, experience received from other studies may be used to make the research more valid, well-grounded, and effective. Physical trace analysis, archival records, content analysis, secondary analysis, observation, and simulation (Hagan, 2010, p. 204) are the major types of unobtrusive methods. Data archives are “institutes or organizations that store data resources (raw data) from previous studies” (Hagan, 2010, p. 225). They are used in criminal justice to store, share, and collect data that may be necessary to study similar cases.

Research Proposal

The purpose of the present proposed research is to investigate the level of occupational hazards for police officers with regard to the stress and emotional burnout to illustrate the necessity for specific measures of rehabilitation and possible treatment of police officers. The interview structure would depend on the budget and time available for the research as well as time and resources for processing and analysis of the received data. As such, a structured interview would be more appropriate in this case due to the nature of the hypothesis. At the same time, observations and quantitative component may be involved into this primarily qualitative research if a researcher decides to count the number of police officers that experience stress often, who had experience of shooting people or injuring them, and those who have families and are single-parents. All the aspects may be investigated leading to the increase in the number of rival causal factors. The following questions may be used for the structured interview:

  1. How many times have you discharged your firearm in the line of duty?
  2. What is your marital status?
  3. How many dependents (children) do you have?
  4. How many hours a day do you spend at work including the hours when you make reports?

The first question would enable me to assess the level of violence-non-violence in the streets as a factor that contributes to increased stress. The second and third questions are designed to identify the status of a police officer and possible anxieties and concerns as well as problems related to this aspect. For instance, a single or a divorced parent may experience more stress and fear about the child/children than the one who has a complete family. The fourth question is aimed at finding out possible difficulties in the family such as the outlook when a child is unsupervised while the investigation or report is completed. In the case of investigating the occupational hazards of police officers, qualitative data-gathering strategies such as participant observation are more preferable as they enable the researcher to see the respondent in a natural field without applying undo pressure on him/her. Informed consent and confidentiality issues are of special importance for conducting a survey, especially regarding the private lives of police officers and their problems at work or at home.

Isolation and conflict, as well as extreme stress, are enumerated as major occupational hazards of police officers (Siegel, 2005, p. 530). The behavioral and emotional components are closely connected when regarding stress, especially when police officers that experience stress refuse to expose their problems or acknowledge that they have some difficulties with coping with their emotional issues. As such, participant observation may be considered appropriate for conducting a research on occupational hazards of police officers. In contrast, surveys may help to identify possible reasons for stress if they are related to work or private life or the inability to find a balance between their private life and professional duties. In this respect, a mixed research design is the most appropriate approach that can be applied to this type of investigation. In addition, a pre-experiment may be used to find out how clear the hypothesis is and formulate a final version of a hypothesis for the research if the current one does not fit the expectations and the research would neither support nor refute the hypothesis. The level of stress may be reported to be the reason for suicidal behavior and/or aggressive conflicts between officers for further research.

Stellman (1998) also approached the occupational hazards of police officers naming violence, emotional and psychological stress, atherosclerotic heart disease, lung disease, and other problems as the burning issues that should be addressed and solved respectively (sec. 95.9-95.10). According to Studer (2006), there are different types of logical approaches that are usually used in case the information after the research is incomplete. In this respect, the research should clearly identify all possible factors that result in stress of police officers and other occupational hazards along with the level of danger of an individual taking into account possible ways of providing assistance. Though aggressive and inadequate behavior and reactions to stress factors may be observed in police officers, it is necessary to bear in mind the possibility of highly-disciplined departments where employees did not get used to sharing their problems with superiors which leads to unawareness of the authorities about the problems.


The observation may be more useful for analyzing behavior of police officers at work with regard to stress factors and their relations and attitude to criminals and the general public as well as their co-workers. Marzuk et al. (2002) addressed the issue of suicide committed by police officers, which can be considered one of the indicators of stress and difficulties in the workplace. Furthermore, surveys and structured interviews would be more appropriate to assess the factors that may potentially lead to stressful behavior and further problems with health and the role in society and other occupational problems. Though job satisfaction should be investigated in the framework of another study, this can be regarded as one of the indicators of stress when an employee does not experience job satisfaction and have more problems due to this fact. As such, a mixed research design would be more appropriate to investigate how hazardous are working conditions for police officers.


Hagan, F. E. (2010). Research methods in criminal justice and criminology (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

Marzuk, P. M., Nock, M. K., Leon, A. C., Portera, L., & Tardiff, K. (2002). Suicide among New York City police officers, 1977–1996. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 2069-2071.

McLaughlin, J. (2006). A gentle reminder that a hypothesis is never proven correct, nor is a theory ever proven to be true. Journal of College Science Teaching, 60-62.

Siegel, L. J. (2005). Criminology (9th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Stellman, J. M. (Ed.). (1998). Encyclopedia of occupational health and safety: Chemical, industries and occupations (4th ed.). New York: International Labor Organization.

Studer, U. M. (2006). Probability theory and inference: How to draw consistent conclusions from incomplete information. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 329-345.

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