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Police Reform in Florida

Executive Summary

Every year, in Florida, police services become more demanding due to pressures to assess and measure government performance regarding their efficiency. There are no competing markets for the delivery of policy enforcement services, and thus, the police effectiveness has received a lot of criticism in the state. An accurate criterion for assessing the accomplishments of the law enforcers and the effort that is incurred to produce the wanted results is lacking.

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Based on the burgeoning dangers of law enforcement, the rapid transformations affecting police, and the frustrations linked to work pressures, guesswork and estimates are no longer desirable, and knowledgeable human resource personnel must replace them to steer effective organizational police performance. The aim of this report is to offer a balanced police organizational analysis by showing how environmental constraints and design structures of police organizations may lead to burnout.

This report will enhance the understanding of the police environments and the effects of the poor working conditions. Moreover, this report will evaluate the available data to offer new knowledge to human resource management of police organizations in Florida. The aim will be to identify the model that aligns with the state’s law enforcement reforms and suggest proposals to be deployed by the human resource managers with respect to addressing the challenges facing the law enforcement personnel.


Most demanding careers are likely to cause stress, but if an individual is exhausted entirely, loses focus, or neglects his or her wellbeing, s/he might be experiencing burnout. According to Senjo (2011), burnout is a phenomenon that occurs when work related stressors overshadow an individual’s ability to effectively execute his or her duties within his or her jurisprudence. Burning out is a common condition that is easy to overlook, but if it is detected it should be fixed because it can have a detrimental effect to self and others (Peak, 2009).

In most careers, this condition leads to a sense of career dissatisfaction and restlessness. Within the field of law enforcement, burnout may result in poor decision making and instigate a culture of brutality that bedevils a department or an entire station (Senjo, 2011). This memo suggests two policies that should facilitate the wellbeing of the police to minimize burnout and its detrimental effects within the Florida policing institution. These policies entail creating awareness through educational programs and improving budget allocation in the law enforcement sector.

Problem Statement

The underlying challenge with the law enforcement personnel in Florida is lack of job satisfaction. According to White (2007), factors identified as causing dissatisfaction include officer’s salary, job and family stress, and size of the department. Specifically, White (2007) noted that about 33% of officers who quit law enforcement reported that stress was a major contributing factor. This paper hypothesizes burnout as the primary contributor to work stressors that result in ineffective role performance and sometimes abandonment of career in the field of law enforcement.

This means that the policing institution in the US should address this epidemic as work related stressor that is turning the police force into ineffective and inefficient unit (Beggs & Davies, 2009). The rationale for making policy suggestions is the series of reports as Senjo (2011), Basińska and Wiciak (2013), Senjo and Dhungana (2012), and Jaramillo, Nixon, and Sams (2005), which suggest that work related stressors are increasingly resulting in police burnout.

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For instance, White (2007) established that dissatisfied workers engage in self-destructive activities such as alcoholism and drug abuse, gambling, and increased divorce rates, especially among the law enforcement agencies. In a quick rejoinder, a report published by Senjo (2011) indicated that once an individual is entirely burned out, s/he responds by doing what it takes to survive through a circumstance, which might not be the ideal course of action. Senjo (2011) conducted a meta-analytic study and found that about 75% of the police officers in the US felt that they were overworked.

According to Senjo (2011), over the years 2006-2009, Florida has experienced 20% turnover. Other cities such as Vermont reported 5% turnover rate suggesting that in Florida the turnout problem is more serious than other cities (Gottschalk, 2010). Within the same sphere of understanding the stressors that might lead to complete burnout, a case study by Basińska and Wiciak (2013) examined ways to combat stressors. Basińska and Wiciak (2013) established that the Florida Firefighters industry has programs that encourage employees to engage in physical exercise and spend more time with their families and friends.

In fact, the report indicated that the physical exercise programs reduced the stress levels among firemen and women by almost 28% (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013). Such programs can be expanded to the law enforcement department to create an environment for effective police performance (Arthur & Shaw, 2010). This analytical paper investigates the potential stressors within the Florida law enforcement institution that has contributed to the more than 5% turnover rate among police officers. Specifically, the memo presents a holistic view of the variables that contribute to the high turnover with the intention of presenting strategic policy intervention that are supported by empirical evidence from several case studies on police stressors and burnout.

Significance of the Report

White (2007) reckons that the aim of individuals who research policing organizations might be motivated by a variety of contextual forces such as the environment. Basińska and Wiciak (2013) approximate that 20% of teachers in Florida experienced burnout two to three times in a week in comparison to 28% of law enforcers who felt burned out from their work almost daily. This means that there is higher probability of burnout in the Florida police force as compared to the teaching career.

These environmental forces can be used to explain the policing organizational performance in Florida. Since previous studies, such as Senjo (2011), Basińska and Wiciak (2013), Senjo and Dhungana (2012), and Jaramillo, Nixon, and Sams (2005), do not offer comprehensive policy suggestions on how to address the environmental factors that cause burnout, this report meets this need, especially within the Florida law enforcement institution.

The policy implications presented in this report give fresh insights to the police personnel management, in terms of planning and improving budget allocation in the law enforcement sector to lay the foundation for a business mindset concerning efficiency in service provision.

The Purpose of the Report and Research Questions

The aim of this policy reform report is to develop a framework that creates a better understanding of police burnout within the Florida law enforcement institution. This memo report provides a conceptual framework that explores the link in the variables of environmental factors, design structures, and overall performance of the Florida police institution. The memo also explores different approaches that can be used to alleviate or reduce police burnout. In order to relate the above variables to police burnout, the following research questions were created.

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  1. Why are law enforcers burning out?
  2. How do environmental factors influence performance of law enforcers?
  3. What happens when police burn out?
  4. What are the possible solutions for intervention?

Advocated Policy Position

In the case study by Basińska and Wiciak (2013), the findings indicated that an ideal policy position should promote training opportunities at all levels involving law enforcement, as a strategy for reducing stressors that might result in police burnout. Such a policy should create awareness of implicit bias among police administrators and officers as has been the case within the Florida fire department that has reduced the rate of burn out by 28% through training programs (Senjo, 2011).

On the other hand, lack of policies or ineffective policy implementation can prevent the effect of implicit bias, which is observed during decisions that are made in the judicial system (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013). This realization creates the necessity to advocate for a widespread understanding of implicit bias as well as how to identify it among police leaders and officers (Blumenstein, Fridell, & Jones, 2012). According to Basińska and Wiciak (2013), understanding the concept of “implicit bias via conversational training allows discussion on how officers receive and understand stereotypical references” (p. 250).

The most critical level of understanding has to commence with the top-level management, since it is mandated with the role of policy generation and implementation (John, 2010). This assertion holds because a number of people in leadership and management roles do not acknowledge the influence of implicit bias on burnout (Lonsway, 2006). Besides, such leaders do not have knowledge of what has conspired between law enforcers and the citizens, particularly within the past decades of lower crime rates as a proof of workable relationship, at ceteris peribus (Philips, 2012). Thus, the training and awareness should begin with the leaders for the chain of command to have an effective trickling down effect in the hierarchal order of service.

In the dynamic environment of law enforcement the policy plan may help the decision makers to understand how bias can affect them, law enforcers, and the entire organization (Senjo & Dhungana, 2012). This means that in conditions involving potential implicit bias and issues that might be happening beyond the individual’s conscious state, it is unfair to sanction the officer (Brouse, 2005).

Alternatively, the appropriate response is allowing positive contact across partners, conversation, and empowerment that seek to create awareness of implicit bias (Police Science and Law Enforcement, 2015). This approach may prevent or reduce the rate of officer burnout. From an empirical perspective, Jaramillo, Nixon, and Sams (2005) established that training officers from different agencies departments helps the officers understand shared problems. This means that training the law enforcement officers together assists them in realizing and eliminating inter-departmental conflict by reminding them of their common objectives and challenges (Barrier, 2009).

The officers have an opportunity to share views concerning handling the criticism and other sources of burnout (Waters & Ussery, 2007; Zavala, 2013). However, the officers should not be subjected to negative interactions in the name of public safety to avoid the potential of conflict of interest (Uddin, 2011). In a quick rejoinder, Basińska and Wiciak (2013) found that nearly 98% of the respondents within the law enforcement field acknowledged that motivation has a positive impact on burnout management.

Since more than 25% of most crimes in Florida have some aspect of racial indifference, it is important for the police department to improve the conversation between the police and the community, to create an ideal work environment (Sanjo, 2011). The police department can reinforce relationship by hiring from the community. This approach nurtures an environment that reduces negative implicit differences among officers (Knopf, 2005). Bias has a huge influence on the relationship between the police and the community, thus, “understanding such influence can move this relationship into a state that supports cooperation” (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013, p. 250).

For example, in Ohio, various agencies have attempted community policing programs that help improve the understanding of the police as well as the community (Finn &Tomz, 1997). When a police department facilitates an inclusive workforce, preferably sourcing from the community that it operates in, it creates an incentive to cooperate. Consequently, the rate of burnout declines and the level of performance increases as was the case in Ohio where the success rate was recorded at more than 60% by Finn and Tomz (1997).

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The other policy should target improving the budget allocation to better the working conditions of the officers in Florida. A bigger budget is needed to improve the infrastructure and purchase modern facilities that need less effort to perform a task (Senjo, 2011). According to White (2007), injuries and death resulting from burnout within the law enforcement profession in the US accounts for about 14% of retirement factors in this field.

For instance, following many cases of police ineffectiveness in maintaining peace and order in Ferguson Missouri, the policy of better work facilities following increased budget allocation by 15% in the year 2014 resulted in increased level of police motivation and better performance (USA Today, 2014). As a result, the rate of injuries on job has been reduced by 32% in the year 2014 in Ferguson Missouri alone.

Following the implementation of the recommendations by the task force investigating the police shootings in Ferguson Missouri, which suggested increased compensation of the officers and better work facilitation, the study carried out by the independent Missouri civil society indicated that the level of police motivation has increased by more than 13% with the turnover as a result of burnout reducing from 7% to 3% (USA Today, 2014). From the above success story, increasing compensation for the officers might helps in motivating them to develop the desire to do a great job, in the case of Florida (Senjo & Dhungana, 2012).

Police Burnout in Florida

Along occupational lines, individuals working in the law enforcement sector are deemed vulnerable, and various studies have approximated that about 25% of all police officers in the Florida have complex alcohol challenges (Senjo & Dhungana, 2012). Other negative issues associated with police burnout include high divorce rates and a shortened life span as was established in the research by Basińska and Wiciak (2013).

Senjo (2011) refutes the notion that burnout is a self-inflicted wound by arguing that it is more of a motivational problem as indicated in the findings involving police officers as respondents. In the findings of the Senjo (2011) study, it was established that police officers suffer largely because the institutional and working environments damage their motivation. This lack of motivation that police face is exacerbated by the fact that they experience huge criticism from up to 30% of the public (Senjo, 2011).

Just like professionals in other careers, the police officers do not absorb such bizarre feelings in a light and controllable manner. For instance, Basińska and Wiciak (2013) established that approximately 20% of teachers in Florida experienced burnout two to three times in a week in comparison to 28% among law enforcement officers. These feelings are insidious, thus, crippling the officer’s well-being and gradually leading to burnout.

The main tasks of the law enforcers involve dealing with people and self-survival, which define a confrontational environment (Senjo & Dhungana, 2012). Ideally, this aspect means that police officers must ensure survival while dealing with public. An officer moves from one bad situation to the next and the pressure to be effective mounts with the severity of the situation. Some of the reasons leading to officer burn out in Florida include organizational factors such as long shifts, blurring one’s identity, and agency size (Finn & Tomz, 1997).

Organizational sources of stress in Florida include long shifts extending up to twelve hours with commute time inclusive (Senjo, 2011). Apart from the fieldwork, the volume of paperwork and sitting is extremely tiresome. Law enforcement shifts are in most cases longer compared to other professions such as doctors who work for about 8 hours per day. Research suggests that more than 60% of the working time is consumed in the field (White, 2007).

A study by Jaramillo, Nixon, and Sams (2005) investigated organizational stressors and devotion among law enforcers. In their research, Jaramillo, Nixon, and Sams (2005) identified a positive relation between job contentment and organizational devotion. Specifically, the level of devotion was related to contentment by more than 22%. Furthermore, they noted that supervisor motivation and support were major stressors influencing the police officers’ commitment, especially towards role execution.

Research on the influence of agency size on job satisfaction carried out by Finn and Tomz (1997) suggests that officers serving in small agencies manifest more satisfaction as compared to their counterparts serving in larger police agencies due to the small service population. From a population of 200 respondents, the higher level of satisfaction in the ration of 1:3 was recorded in smaller than larger service populations (Finn & Tomz, 1997).

These researchers noted that due to rigidity of large agencies, officers serving in those settings face low job satisfaction as a result of minimized resources and other constraints of serving large populations (Finn & Tomz, 1997). For instance, Finn and Tomz (1997) identified that work related injuries are reported on daily basis rising from three to four cases in a day to more than eight cases in most stations in Florida.

These scholars also reported that the average burnout score was 3.79 for officers working in small departments and four for officers in large departments (Finn & Tomz, 1997). Since the state of Florida has a relatively large population, it hosts eleven of the most dangerous cities in North America (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013). The above challenges have resulted in higher turnover in terms of career abandonment as a result of burnout by police officers.

How Environmental Factors Affect Performance

The human resource policy management still lacks incentives to motivate the law enforcers to perform effectively, due to limited resource allocation and competing interests (Beggs & Davies, 2009). The law enforcement sector remains crowded with tensions from retaliating groups including politicians, criminals, and defense attorneys as noted by Basińska and Wiciak (2013). Therefore, the human resource policy management within the law enforcement section can begin by addressing the fate of the law enforcers (Jaramillo, Nixon, & Sams, 2005).

However, with many challenges facing the law enforcement personnel, very little or no change should be expected. For instance, there has been a lot of pressure from the external environment due to competing interests (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013). This pressure has led to work-related stressors and declining performance. The unpredictable nature of the fragile environment manifests high risks for law enforcers (Senjo, 2011). Thus, the external challenges that law enforcers face in their line of duty might result in increased stress that can translate into burnout when not addressed in a timely manner.

Possible Results of Police Burnout

Even with the improved labor force in the Florida police departments, already overstretched officers continue to work for long hours (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013). A study by Senjo (2011) suggests that overworked officers face performance challenges on and off duty due excessive external work-related pressures. Police officers are compelled to sacrifice their wellbeing and safety by agreeing to overwork to acquire extra earning for their families (Jaramillo, Nixon, & Sams, 2005).

For instance, fatigued officers experience challenges in managing personal relationships, fall asleep on duty, and encounter accidental injuries both on and off duty (Finn & Tomz, 1997). Besides, exhausted officers are highly vulnerable to attacks due to poor judgment and failing to respond swiftly to dangers. At present, Florida continues to report cases of police officers being involved in rogue activities such as suicide and mass shootings as a result of stressors (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013).

For instance, in the year 2013, 56 police officers were directly and indirectly affected by these rogue activities (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013). Frustrated police often retaliate to the lack of empathy from the citizens by being excessively brutal to law offenders. However, the responsibility to make things right goes down to administrators in the human resource sector.

Intervention Measures

Different approaches used in other professions can be used by the police agencies to achieve desirable results. For instance, firefighters in Florida hold regular staff meetings and have recreational rooms for workers when they feel exhausted (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013). The human resource managers in the firefighting sector in Florida conduct regular staff meetings as well as personal meetings with each employee.

This aspect gives the employees the opportunity to address issues regarding workload, challenges, and the work environment (Sanjo, 2011). Specifically, Basińska and Wiciak (2013) acknowledge that law enforcers are often underappreciated in spite of the commitment they manifest in their careers. These scholars suggest that an individual has the capability to avoid or encounter stress (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013).

Nonetheless, as much as an individual might be responsible for the burnout, his or her working environment matters a lot (Finn & Tomz, 1997). This aspect is an opportunity for the human resource managers to exploit their resources to ensure that an officer experiencing burnout can consciously fix his or her condition (Senjo & Dhungana, 2012). Just as law enforcers adapt to survival tactics in their careers, the human resource personnel must ensure that the working environment facilitates this growth (White, 2007). The impetus to perform must be supported by a good internal environment, as opposed to the pressure from external parties such as the taxpayers.

Across the US, most police departments have employed systematic approaches to minimize organizational stress. For instance, after undergoing huge organizational instability following various high profile negative cases, the Los Angeles Police Department administration realized the significance of organizational burnout (Finn & Tomz, 1997). Consequently, the department introduced the position of the director of organizational development to transform the existing Behavioral Science Services Section and other divisions linked to police wellbeing (Sanjo, 2011).

Currently, some have employed not just psychologists but professionals in organizational management to combat burnout (Senjo & Dhungana, 2012). Apparently, the anticipated changes in the working conditions of police in Florida may not be realized due to budgetary constraints. For instance, the current allocation may not allow for complete overhaul of the dilapidated equipment or increased remuneration (Gottschalk, 2010). Nonetheless, the following policy measures can be implemented by the Florida policing institution to intervene.

The first policy measure is planning for physical exercise and introducing health-eating programs for law enforcers as part of physical and dietary health programs (White, 2007). It might be hard for an individual to beat unhealthy eating habits since the symptoms of burnout include neglect of wellbeing due to stress (Peak, 2009). Physical exercise programs may influence the officers to develop positive attitude, despite the challenge in work environment (Senjo & Dhungana, 2012).

Thus, human resource managers should put in place exercise equipment such as gym and swimming facilities with incentives such as sports competitions to relieve stress and keep officers focused (Jaramillo, Nixon, & Sams, 2005). Such facilities will eventually internalize the need for healthy living and reduce stressors that are associated with burnout. Besides, there is a need for the management to introduce recreation and vacation plans for the law enforcement personnel (Jaramillo, Nixon, & Sams, 2005).

The management needs to create awareness through training programs for the law enforcers. Managers should plan regular clinical check-ups as well as counseling programs for the officers that are sensitive to cultural and racial dynamics. Statistics suggest most police fieldwork in Florida involve areas crowded by the black race, which account for 48% of the officers (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013). This aspect of diversity will guarantee acceptance the proposed programs among the officers.

The second policy for an effective turnaround from burnout within the Florida policing institution is matching the officers with job requirements. Basińska and Wiciak (2013) suggest that administrators should cooperate with psychologists to improve the match between an officer’s potential and the demands of a certain job. According to these authors, if law enforcers are unfit to their job, they encounter frustration and self-blame (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013).

The under-stimulated officers should be allocated new roles that will exploit their skills (McGreevy, 2015). If officers are involved in tedious activities, it is advisable to rotate them or try something new to increase concentration as such factors have the potential of causing stress (Jaramillo, Nixon, & Sams, 2005). Senjo (2011) noted that about 65% of officers leaving the profession suggested that they want better retirement package. Another 69% of the participants suggested that they want better salaries and benefits. A glance at these percentages suggests the significance ensuring job satisfaction in the law enforcement sector (Senjo, 2011). This means that allocation of duties should correspond to the pay to reduce the potential of burnout.

In the implementation of the above recommendations, the policy reforms should introduce community policing to integrate citizens into security provision via programs ranging from joint citizen-police forces to outreach services targeting the vulnerable groups (Jaramillo, Nixon, & Sams, 2005). Community policing implementation should include a pre-engagement analysis and assessment stage (White, 2007). This stage should be as deep and consultative as possible to ensure that the community and the police develop a better understanding of partnership. The second stage should entail mechanisms and processes for monitoring (Sanjo, 2011).

The monitoring phase should examine other worldwide frameworks that succeeded elsewhere such as the World Bank Poverty Reduction Approach, which employs ways such as publicizing milestones and success to seek more support needed for the reform process (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013). The third stage should include evaluation to establish the end-objective of the community policing initiative (White, 2007). The presence of community support decreases the sense of alienation and assists the police in maintaining a safe and orderly environment. These steps will guarantee positive results and sustainability of the programs in the short-term and long-term.

Support for the Reforms

In the ideal, every public interest organization pursues its mission, functions, and values in weighing the overarching interests in the law enforcement reforms (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013). Regardless, human resource managers and policy makers in Florida should be aware of the heightening need to increase awareness among the police as well as improve the budget allocation as suggested by Sanjo (2011). Based on these factors, taxpayers will be more than willing to advocate police reforms in Florida.

Transition issues

There has been a mismatch in political will and policy significance regarding police reforms in Florida (Basińska & Wiciak, 2013). Despite huge support for this issue, the probability of the lawmakers implementing a higher budget allocation remains insignificant. The arguments for police reform are made in the context of promoting economic proficiency in most scenarios (Van-Velzen, 2008). When communities recognize the benefits that police reforms can bring to their lives, they will put more pressure on their representatives to facilitate these reforms (White, 2007).


As mentioned in this report, the underlying problem within the law enforcement performance is the issue of work-related stressors that result in complete burnout. This report utilized contemporary literature that accurately and effectively confirmed the causal effects on environmental issues and performance and identified burnout as a major problem facing the police officers in Florida. The research criterion that searched for environmental aspect and design structure in relation to burnout entails an array of disciplines including public administration, psychology, and organization research, statistics, and economics.

The policy recommendations clearly show areas that need to be changed or improved to reduce burnout and increase performance efficiency among the law enforcement departments. Since law enforcers are reluctant to oversee law and order given the poor and fearful working conditions, it is understandable for human resource managers to introduce better plans that promise safety to the law enforcers.


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