Carleton Releases First National Study of Work-Life Issues in Canadian Police Departments

Posted on April 24, 2012 in Faculty, News, Research

A sweeping national study by Carleton University’s Linda Duxbury and Christopher Higgins at the University of Western Ontario has found that police across Canada are well paid but suffering significant stress and health problems from shift work, long hours, understaffing, few development opportunities, lack of career mobility and substantial family demands.

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Policing culture expects work to take priority over family, says the report, the first national survey on work-life balance of police. As well, police officers have little predictability about work demands, little control over their work hours and they often have working spouses with their own high-powered careers. Some officers decide against having children in order to accommodate their jobs.

Police officers also face unique demands like attending court hearings, sometimes on their days off, as well as understaffing, emotionally draining work and multiple competing tasks that are always changing.

The study is based on a survey of 4,500 police officers on 25 forces across Canada, including constables, sergeants, staff sergeants and command positions. It found that only nine per cent earned less than $80,000 a year. But the typical officer works 53.5 hours a week. One in five is in poorer physical health, a surprising proportion of a sample which is largely younger men. And the high use of long, ever-changing shift arrangements were linked to physical and mental health problems, exhaustion, challenges for work-life balance and problems at home.

Two-thirds of police officers miss some 14 days of work a year – a high level of absenteeism. Half the officers surveyed reported high levels of stress and another 46 per cent reported moderate levels. Only four per cent reported low levels of stress.

The study, which analyzed differences associated with rank and gender, also found that male officers earn higher incomes than their female counterparts in each rank category, even though the women are more highly educated.

“The results from this study offer a wake-up call to police forces across Canada that are concerned with issues such as recruitment, retention, succession planning and the cost of benefits,’’ said Duxbury, a professor in Carleton’s Sprott School of Business and a noted pioneer in the field of organizational health.

“What we’re seeing is the need for a major change in how we manage our police forces. People can’t work in an environment that values 24/7 availability and offers them little control without paying a price. ’’

The report will be used by police forces to examine managerial practices, said Carol Allison-Burra, president of the Canadian Association of Police Boards and director of the Kingston Police Services Board.

“The CAPB has long been focused on the sustainability of public police,’’ she said. “The great work undertaken by Professors Duxbury and Higgins demonstrates that sustainability is not just about funds and funding sources, but in finding innovative ways and means to support our most valuable resource, our people.”

Among other findings of the survey:

  • Women at all ranks are more likely than men to be single or divorced.
  • Twelve per cent of men had stay-at-home partners. One per cent of women had a partner at home full-time.
  • It’s likely that police forces across Canada couldn’t get their work done and meet mandates if officers didn’t donate a substantial amount of their personal time each week.
  • Twenty-five per cent of police officers perceived their immediate managers care more about their own career than the well-being of staff.
  • Twenty-two per cent reported that work-life challenges have caused them to reduce their work productivity.

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For more information:

Linda Duxbury

Carleton University

(613) 520-2385

Linda_Duxbury@carleton.ca

 

Carol Allison-Burra,

President, Canadian Association of Police Boards

Contact Jennifer Lanzon, Executive Director

613 235 2272 or email jlanzon@capb.ca

 

Christopher Cline

Carleton Media Relations

613-520-2600, ext. 1391

Christopher_Cline@carleton.ca