Direct v. Indirect Exposure to Trauma: An Insight to Officer Coping Mechanisms

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Jeremy Ball


Police officers serve a vital role in our communities and can face particularly acute trauma and stress in the execution of their jobs. Therefore, it is critical to fully understand how police officers react in these situations. Studies have shown that officers endure a distinctive source of stress and are presented with the risk of exposure to traumatic events. Chopko & Schwartz (2012) surveyed 183 officers and found that more than 30% displayed symptoms of PTSD; however, this study focused on direct exposure to trauma. The current study expands this previous research in studying the effects of indirect experiences of trauma. For the purpose of this study, direct exposure to trauma is any first-hand involvement with trauma—engaging in fire—and indirect exposure to trauma is a second-hand interaction—hearing about an assault. The current study used the Impact of Event Scale-Revised instrument developed by Morris et al. (2005) and used by Chopko & Schwartz (2012) to examine PTSD-related symptoms of police officers in stressful events. This study assessed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as it relates to direct and indirect exposure to trauma, analyze officers' accessibility to employee assistance programs, and examine the officers' evaluation of these services.

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