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Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD): Impacts of Stress

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1577 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is a law enforcement agency in the City of Los Angeles. It is headed by a chief of police who serves for a term determined by the pleasure of the city council, officially recognized as the City of Los Angeles Police Department. It serves under the guidance of the Board of Police Commissioners, also referred to as the Police Commission, composed of five appointed officials whose role is to oversee the institution’s operations. Despite the existence of different department that seeks to enhance the efficiency of the institution, their personnel are experiencing a myriad of challenges.

Definitions, History, and Statistics

The department was established during the California Gold Rush period (1848 -1855) when Los Angeles city was in the limelight for gambling and violence among many other vices and a lack of proper enforcement of civil law (Felker-Kantor, 2016). However, its existence did not deter crime since Los Angeles was experiencing rampant violence, vice, and gambling, raising concerns of the Guard’s inefficiency (Felker-Kantor, 2016). The force was adversely affected by World War II since the number of its personnel was drastically reduced by the demands of the military. The Chicago Police Department is the largest municipal department in the country followed by the New York City Police Department. 

Effects on Child’s Physical, Social, and Emotional Development

The children of officers working in the Los Angeles Police Department are extensively affected by the roles of their parents. One of the common challenges affecting the children is their separation from their parents who are frequently on duty (Johnson & Easterling, 2012). The officers are always on duty even at night or weekends when their children are back from school and require their company. Researchers have shown that this kind of separation adversely affects the children’s physical, social, and emotional development (Johnson & Easterling, 2012). Evidence shows that when parents are always with their children, the youngsters receive a stress-buffering effect on their brains (Johnson & Easterling, 2012). When the buffering or guidance is withdrawn, the children become hyper-vigilant to threats, a sense that is a cause of post-traumatic disorder (Johnson & Easterling, 2012). Their brains become prone to anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, and these experiences have a permanent impact on their well-being as they progress into adulthood. It may affect more than a single generation of the victims. 

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The roles of LAPD officers are also the cause of numerous health conditions that affect their children’s development. Health experts have disclosed that depression, stress, and anxiety are harmful to pregnant mothers as they are risk factors for adverse consequences for mothers and their children (Glied & Oellerich, 2014). For instance, anxiety in times of pregnancy may result in pre-term births, shorter gestation, and has harmful effects for the fetus’ neurodevelopment and the child’s future well-being (Glied & Oellerich, 2014). The exposure of pregnant officers to stressing work conditions, anxiety, and chronic strain may result in lower birth weight infants, which adversely affect the children’s development even into their adulthood.

Effects on Family Structure and Function

Officers working in LAPD and their families encounter a myriad of challenges due to the nature of the duties of the Department. Research has shown that a majority of the officers in the department undergo psychological trauma due to the demanding nature of their job and traumatizing experiences such as having to respond to life-threatening incidences like robberies, and stigma, which deny them emotional and behavioral support (Hwang, 2016). For instance, between 1998 and 2017, about 36 LAPD officers committed suicide while 16 others were killed in the line of duty. These deaths have adversely affected the families of the officers (Hwang, 2016). A clear example was that of David Swaile, a LAPD officer who committed suicide in 2016 by shooting himself after serving the department for 10 years. Swaile left behind a young family of four boys and his wife of four years. His wife reported that before the incident, Swaile’s behavior had extensively changed as he was not sleeping comfortably and had nightmares whenever he slept, indications that something was wrong.  

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Also, some of the duties expose the officers to the risk of incapacitation. The officers who deal with armed criminals may be shot or harmed resulting in permanent disabilities (Bisson et al. 2015). Moreover, on-the-job stress adversely hampers LAPD officers’ ability to undertake their roles in the family. Research has shown that many officers are suffering from emotional issues, which affect their capacity in the work or to plan their lives (Bisson et al. 2015). Although the institution offers emotional support to its members and has established peer support networks, evidence show that some officers are hesitant to seek behavioral or emotional health care, especially because they think that they may be considered unfit for the job (Bisson et al. 2015). In other cases, some officers take drugs, which adversely affect their health and the ability to undertake their family roles. When dealing with life-threatening incidents like raids by armed gangsters, they opt to conceal their experiences instead of seeking counseling (Bisson et al. 2015). As a result, they engage in a drinking spree, denying their families support, especially if they were the breadwinners (Bisson et al. 2015). Consequently, the diversion of funds to drugs and alcohol results in disputes and family breakups.     

Service in LAPD extensively affects the members of the Department, their families, and children. The roles of the department are demanding and risky as the officers are at work most of the time and are required to undertake risky incidents like responding to armed criminals. As a result, they develop health conditions like stress and depression that impact on their well-being and efficiency in undertaking their work and family roles. These experiences also affect their children’s physical, social, and emotional development, not to mention their families’ structures and functions. When the children are separated from their parents who are most of the times at work, they become hyper-vigilant to threats, a cause of post-traumatic disorders. Moreover, the youngsters become prone to anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, conditions that are recipes to ant-social behaviors. Workplace experiences are also harmful to pregnant officers as anxiety and depression may result in pre-term births and shorter gestation, and hampered fetus’ neurodevelopment, conditions that affect the well-being, growth, and development of the child even during their adulthood. Depression and anxiety may force the officers to commit suicide, resulting in single-parent families, making it hard for single parents to meet their children’s needs. Also, depression and stress may compel the officers to indulge in drug and alcohol abuse, making them unable to meet the needs of their families due to the diversion of their funds to alcohol and drugs, a major recipe for divorce. Service in the department may also result in disabilities which may prevent officers from fulfilling their family roles, hampering their children’s growth and development.


  • Bisson, J., Cosgrove, S., Lewis, C., & Robert, N. (2015). Post-traumatic stress disorder. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 351. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4663500/
  • Felker-Kantor, M. (2016). The Coalition against Police Abuse: CAPA’s Resistance Struggle in 1970s Los Angeles. Journal of Civil and Human Rights, 2(1), 52-88. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305211410_The_Coalition_against_Police_Abuse_CAPA%27s_Resistance_Struggle_in_1970s_Los_Angeles
  • Glied, S., & Oellerich, D. (2014). Two-Generation Programs and Health. The Future of Children, 24(1), 79-97. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1029031.pdf
  • Hwang, R. (2016). Accounting for Carceral Reformations: Gay and Transgender Jailing in Los Angeles as Justice Impossible. Critical Ethnic Studies, 2(2), 82-103. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/310663333_Accounting_for_Carceral_Reformations_Gay_and_Transgender_Jailing_in_Los_Angeles_as_Justice_Impossible
  • Johnson, E., & Easterling, B. (2012). Understanding Unique Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children: Challenges, Progress, and Recommendations. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74(2), 342-356. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1741-3737.2012.00957.x


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