Being a police officer is a challenging task. Police officers are usually on the front line, dealing with violent situations, dangerous criminal activities, and life or death scenarios. Most of their work involves dealing with strong emotions and stressful situations.
The rate of burnout among police officers is quite high as a result, leading to an increasing number of suicides and cases of post-traumatic stress disorders among the force. 17 out of every 100,000 police officers die due to suicide every year!
The concept that police officers are tough, and that trauma and violence have minimal impact on their emotional health is a myth. Showing emotions is no longer considered a weakness, and as a result, law enforcement departments are placing great value on officers who exhibit emotional intelligence.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is a key character trait that can be described as an awareness of internal emotions, as well as of the emotions of other people. Emotional intelligence allows a person to identify and separate their emotions from others’ and manage them without getting overwhelmed.
There are three main skills that are considered to be a part of emotional intelligence. These include:
- Emotional awareness — the ability to correctly identify one’s own emotions and put a name to them
- Emotional management — the ability to regulate and manage emotions and apply them to various tasks effectively, such as problem-solving and critical thinking.
- Empathy — the ability to identify the emotions of others by observing both verbal and non-verbal cues and developing a better understanding of their situation.
The Importance of Emotional Intelligence
Most people place great importance on the intellectual ability of their peers. While smarter people tend to be placed in high regard, more often than not, they aren’t among the most successful or most fulfilled. Intellectual intelligence can only take you so far, but working in tandem with emotional intelligence, it can lead to complete self-actualization.
Let’s use an example to explain this.
You have an exam coming up and you have done all you can to prepare for it, including putting in extra study hours, obtaining resource material, and making sure you are familiar with all the material. But on the day of the exam, you’re unable to control your stress and emotions and fail to manage your time and remember the correct answers due to anxiety.
The scenario clearly shows that emotional management and awareness are a big part of achieving success in any field. They help you:
- Navigate the social complexities of the workplace
- Excel in your career
- Improve your physical health by managing stress levels
- Boost your mental health by understanding and acknowledging your feelings
- Lead and motivate others
- Control your emotions to forge stronger relationships
- Be more attuned to other people’s feelings and connect with them
Emotional Intelligence in Policing
The law enforcement field is strife with political issues, such as racial profiling, discourtesy, excessive use of force, and a lack of empathy. Most of these cases arise due to an officer’s inability to control their emotions and a lack of emotional awareness.
The culture of ‘grin and bear it’ within the policing field leads to repressed and unacknowledged emotions, which is particularly concerning. Research shows that suppressing human emotions can lead to serious consequences, especially among law enforcement officers who deal with emotionally charged situations on a daily basis.
Emotional intelligence allows officers to maintain order while controlling the criminal element within society. In a broader context, emotional intelligence within law enforcement refers to specific emotional and social competencies that are essential for a police officer to effectively do their job.
These competencies include:
- Conflict management
- Stress tolerance
- Social responsibility
- Interpersonal relationships
Displaying these competencies and being able to apply them in the right way—and at the appropriate time—is essential for successful policing.
The Benefits of Emotional Intelligence for Police Officers
Emotional intelligence helps officers effectively and efficiently police and successfully meet the demands they face on the streets. It also helps them balance their personal and work lives without one spilling into the other. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of emotional intelligence within the Law Enforcement profession:
Allows the Officer to Empathize With Others
Police officers meet so many people day in and day out that they forget that these are humans with real issues. It’s imperative that everyone is treated with kindness, compassion, and respect. This ensures that the community feels protected and has confidence in their law enforcement officers.
This also prevents the officer from acting rashly and blowing a situation out of proportion with devastating consequences, such as the recent shootings of unarmed people by police officers.
Encourages Better Stress Management During Volatile Situations
Stress tolerance and the ability to withstand adverse situations without falling apart are highly regarded within the law enforcement community. Officers with high levels of emotional intelligence can choose a proper course of action to deal with stressful situations and are able to hold on to their optimism in the face of adversity.
Emotional intelligence also allows a person to understand that certain things are beyond their control, and enables officers to practice self-management. This way, they stay composed and refrain from impulsive, unpredictable, and explosive behavior.
Prevents Burnout among Police Officers
The burnout rate among law enforcement officers is quite high and has led to many officers suffering from PTSD and committing suicide, as discussed previously. This is a very real and alarming problem. But the good news is that high emotional intelligence can lower the risk of burnout and the consequential suffering. People with higher levels of emotional intelligence have the added ability to understand, perceive, and manage emotions, thus being less likely to experience burnout.
Nowadays, emotional intelligence has become a highly desired attribute among police officers. Most law enforcement departments use it as an important factor for evaluating potential candidates!
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