Problem is, stress and its ample side effects are detrimental to one’s health, just like too many calories, too little sleep and too little exercise. Stress leads to all sorts of ailments. It is not a minor health concern.
And, as a story in Wednesday’s Star explained, police officers provide the quintessential examples of a skilled work force that suffers unduly from stress-related symptoms.
Oxford Police Lt. L.G. Owen put it succinctly: Police “have the highest suicide rate, the highest divorce rate, the highest alcoholic rate. … It’s a calling. No one does this for the money.”
There isn’t one — not in the sense of lessening officers’ stress with one broad stroke. Tension exists in almost any job, but few have stress levels that are comparable to police work. The combination of exhaustive shifts and few opportunities to eat properly is bad enough; that the job routinely puts officers in harm’s way would make anyone’s blood pressure rise.
To that end, we applaud the efforts some police chiefs are taking. Providing officers with exercise equipment — and time to use it — is a noble effort, as is making professional counseling sessions available after officers respond to homicides or violent crimes.
We’re hesitant to compare police work to that of the military, particularly today’s soldiers who are enduring multiple deployments to Afghanistan. There are similarities, yes; life-threatening dangers exist in both jobs. But even in the nation’s most crime-ridden areas, being a police officer isn’t the same as being an infantryman in an Afghanistan hot zone.
That said, the troubling aspect is that statistics show that officers suffer from many of the same job-related ailments as do today’s military. As Oxford’s Lt. Owen said, police work creates high rates of suicide, divorce and alcoholism. Officers’ expected lifespans are 11 years shorter than today’s national average.
The bottom line: Police work is dangerous for your health.
Using Anniston’s force as an example, this page has proudly advocated for higher pay and better facilities for APD’s officers. The starting annual pay for an Anniston patrolman has been about $28,000. That’s a livable salary for a young person with few bills in Calhoun County, but it’s hardly enough considering the toll on one’s body and the danger he or she may face on any given shift.
Our admonition is for local lawmakers to do everything within their power to increase officers’ pay and give them the tools they need to reduce the mind-numbing stress of their jobs. Police work is a calling, but it doesn’t have to be such a detriment to one’s health.