Recommended Item
for Your Duty Briefcase
When you become a police officer, you’ll probably be
issued a briefcase as part of your original equipment
issue.  In that briefcase, you’re going to carry
things like reports, forms, a digest of your state’s
criminal statutes, a manual containing your state’s
traffic articles…you get the idea.  

I would strongly recommend that your briefcase
should also contain a copy of
Police Burnout –
Signs, Symptoms and Solutions
by Gerald Loren
Fishkin, Ph.D.  
Police Burnout was published in
1988; however, everything in this book is just as
relevant today as it was in 1988.  Aside from finding
nothing in
Police Burnout with which I disagree, I
feel a bond toward this author, because he began
his teaching career in 1971; that was the same year
I began my police career.
Being young and naive…it's the truth whether you
like it or not...you're going to be taken in by the
police department hype about specialized
assignments and promotions.  You, and particularly
your spouse, may even be under the impression
that all the shift work, and working weekends, will
only be a temporary thing.  If you buy into that
naivety, and you assure your spouse of your rapid
advancement to greener pastures, you'll experience
stress sooner than later.  While you'll quickly learn
how a police department operates, your spouse
won't have that same inside view.

For some reason, a lot, maybe even most, young
people contemplating a police career think the
uniform patrol portion of their careers is only a
starter course for their advancement to better
assignments.  The facts are these…a police
department's uniformed patrol force is the largest
and most important component of any police
department…it is indispensable.  A police
department is just like any other government
organization when it comes to assignments.  Many
fine police officers will remain in patrol for their
entire careers.  Some will remain by choice while
others simply don't have the personal and political
connections to obtain other assignments.  
To avoid the stress of over expectations, you and
your spouse, or spouse to be, must discuss the
sources of potential stress, before you start a
police career, or marry, whichever the case may be.  
If you're already a police officer, and your future
spouse insists you change your career path, you'll
be experiencing some of the stress to come.  If you
hate your job, this won't be a problem.  However, if
you like what you're doing, you've got some hard
thinking to do.

You know…when we talk about stress and spouses,
one usually thinks of the female spouse.  I
remember when women first began entering police
work as police officers.  The wives of police officers
were not a happy bunch.  In a near totally male
dominated profession , the only women wives had
to worry about were police groupies.  When females
began entering police departments, the stress level
in marriages began to rise.  The wives' fears were
not totally unfounded.  More than a few marriages
suffered the stress of workplace romances.

While the work schedule of the male police officer
may be the primary source of stress in a marriage,
the female police officer will have that and more.  
Men are less tolerant of police work than women.  
While at first the man may find the idea of a police
wife as interesting, that won't last long.  Depending
upon where you look, only about 12 to 14 percent
of police officers are women; even though, police
departments have been open to women for four
decades.  A lot of experts believe the low number is
due to the hiring practices of police departments.  I
have a simpler explanation…most men simply have
a problem with the wife being the one who is armed
and dangerous.
When I read the introduction in Police Burnout, I had
to smile as the author described his first classroom
setting with a bunch of cops to teach a police
psychology course.  Some things never change.
If you're a single person when you begin your police
career, you may only have parents and other family
members who are not pleased with your career
path.  However, their projected stress is minor
compared to that of a spouse.  If you're single, and
you've never been married, you can't even begin to
appreciate the level of stress you'll experience at
the hands of an anti-police career spouse.

As a single person, the beginning of your police
career can be relatively stress free.  There will, with
most of you, come a point when you meet the love
of your life.  It's not a very good time for unclouded
thinking, but you should try to read signs which
could... no, I should say definitely will cause you
stress in the future.  Look for signals from your
future spouse that indicate any displeasure with
your work.  Some signs may be subtle and easy for
you to ignore.  If you choose to ignore such signs,
you do so at your own peril.  Here's a hard reality.  
If your future spouse has serious doubts about
your chosen career before marriage, those doubts
will only get worse after marriage.
Then…there's the no win scenario.  People have this
naive belief that they can change other people.  This
is a belief that is unbelievably resistant to change.  
People will spend their entire lives trying to change
other people…talk about stress.  Many police
marriages suffer stress that has nothing, or little,
to do with the job itself.  But…because police work
is universally viewed as a stressful occupation, it
becomes an excellent reason cited for the cause of

As a police officer, you're going to experience some
wild and scary situations, so you might think that
would be the primary reason for stress.  Well…yes,
it might be, but who knows.  In a marriage, the
primary reason most often cited is the work
schedule.  Now, here's something I've never been
able to understand.  When you hear police officers
and their spouses bellyache about work schedules,
you'd think police officers were the only people who
work shift work; weekends; holidays, and work
overtime.  Compared to other people, in other
occupations who work similar schedules, police
officers generally fare much better when it comes to
compensation and the number of days off.  If
you've been comparing police entry level pay,
vacation and holiday leave to most other careers at
entry level, you already know the police career looks
pretty good.
"...you're going to experience some wild and
scary situations, so you might think that would
be the primary reason for stress."
~ Barry M. Baker
If you're a person who thinks a lot about stress;
you find just about every situation stressful, and
you constantly complain about stress, do yourself
and everyone else a favor and don't become a police

Police officers sometimes succumb to the belief that
they have the most stressful job on the planet.  
There's no question that police officers experience
more serious stressful situations with more
frequency than most people; however, stress
experienced in police work can be controlled by the
individual police officer.  Police officers frequently
blame stress on the job when, in fact, the primary
source of stress originates from other factors within
the police officer's personal life.

Without a doubt, marriage is the biggest factor any
man or woman must consider when contemplating a
police career.  If your spouse is adamantly against
your decision to become a police officer, you have
two very simple choices.  First, join the police
department and prepare for divorce, or secondly,
look for another career.
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker