Evaluation of Operational Stress in Riot and Crowd Control Police Units: A Global Challenge for Prevention and Management of Police task-related Stress

S Garbarino, Nicola Magnavita, C Chiorri, Donatella Brisinda, G Cuomo, A Venuti, Riccardo Fenici

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroContributo a convegno


It is nowadays well recognized that Police work is highly stressful. Exposure to traumatic incidents and interaction with violent subjects are specific occupational stressors. This study focuses on a homogeneous group of police officers engaged exclusively in riot and crowd control operations, (the ‘VI Reparto Mobile’ of Genoa) one of the Italian special police units deployed to control crowd in high-risk conditions such as political or sports events, where public safety might be jeopardized. The VI Reparto Mobile of Genoa was assigned, in 2001, to the G8 Summit Meeting in Genoa. The violent riots that took place on that occasion had enduring and unpleasant liability consequences, which damaged the reputation of Italian police forces as a whole as well as the personal and family life of many police officers who were involved in high demanding conditions, in the absence of adequate psychological and operational support. Similar events cause similar consequences all over the world, involving officers more or less in the same way independently of their ethnical origin. Nevertheless, to the best of our knowledge, a systematic investigation on specific stress of police riot and crowd control units is still lacking. Therefore we planned to study systematically this problem, taking advantage from the official position of the first author as chief police neurologist of the Unit. The aim of the study was to compare stress levels perceived by members of the VI Reparto Mobile, during routine activities and during a major event (the 2009 G8 summit meeting in L’Aquila). Specifically, we explored whether responsibility for the security of the special event increased perceived stress due to higher workload as measured by demand–control and effort–reward imbalance testing, or decreased it due to higher job control and better rewards, after adequate specific psychophysical training was provided. All officers were investigated following a 3-steps protocol: 1) Psychological assessment with Big Five Questionnaire (BFQ), State-Trate Anxiety InventoryTrait (STAI-T), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Profile of Mood States (POMS), Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), Safety Organizing Scale (SOS). 2) Evaluation of task-related stress with the demand–control–support questionnaire derived from longer Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ - Karasek) and the effort–reward imbalance questionnaire (ERI - Siegrist). 3) Evaluation of behavioral and clinical outcome (as measured by short-term sickness absenteeism as a function of workload, monitored through a structured database. Preliminary results show that, after appropriate briefing, the volunteered participation rate almost unanimous (292/294 members of the Unit). As concerns personality profiling, unit’s officers were much more emotionally stable, conscientious and open to experience than the general male population and career soldiers. The high level of emotional stability was consistent with reported mood stability of police officers. Measures of job strain and effort–reward imbalance decreased significantly when compared between daily and special event activities. On average, demand decreased (P<0.001), control increased (P<0.001) and social support increased (P<0.001). At the same time, effort decreased (P< 0.001), reward grew (P<0.001) and over- commitment dropped (P< 0.001). Behavioral and clinical outcome showed that during three months of routine deployment, 51.0% of officers took short-term sickness absence, whereas during the 2009 G8 Meeting only 35.5% of officers took short-term sickness absence. The preliminary results of this ongoing study suggest that members of a special police unit assigned riot and crowd control in major events have good capacity to withstand stress. Furthermore it appears that chronic routine work might be significantly more stressful to this kind of officers than assignment to a special event, even when imply
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteAbstracts book
Numero di pagine1
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2011
Evento37th Annual Conference of The Society for Police & Criminal Psychology - Chicago
Durata: 18 ott 201121 ott 2011


Convegno37th Annual Conference of The Society for Police & Criminal Psychology


  • Operational stress
  • Police psychology
  • riot and crowd control


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