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Law enforcement officers and Employee Assistance Programs

Elizabeth Donnelly (School of Social Work, University of Windsor, Windsor, Canada)
Colby Valentine (Division of Social Sciences, Dominican College, Orangeburg, New York, USA)
Karen Oehme (Institute for Family Violence Studies, College of Social Work, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 18 May 2015




The toll of the stresses of policing on officers’ physical and mental health and on their individual work and family functioning has been well documented in the literature. Given the well-established consequences of work-related stress on law enforcement, it becomes important to understand how officers are utilizing institutional support systems. Specifically, the purpose of this paper is to elucidate the relationship between officers and Employee Assistant Programs (EAPs).


Data were collected from surveys attached to an online officer training targeting domestic violence in law enforcement families in a large southern state.


A total of n=934 participants were retained for analyses. Few respondents (16.2 percent) reported accessing their EAPs. Totally, 56.4 percent reported knowing enough about their EAP and how to access it; 33 percent of participants would not use their EAPs for domestic violence concerns. No significant differences among officers who did and did not access their EAPs for workplace stress, posttraumatic stress, alcohol use, or domestic violence were identified. Significant differences in alcohol use, posttraumatic stress, and operational stress were identified in those who reported not knowing enough about how to access their EAP.

Practical implications

Concrete suggestions are offered to help increase officers’ knowledge and understanding of the importance of mental health and EAPs. Agencies should consider a more comprehensive approach to mental health to ensure that officers get the help they need.


Very little is known about the relationship that law enforcement officers have with EAP services. This study sheds light on some important differences in work-related stress, stress reactions, and knowledge and familiarity with EAP services.



The training was funded with a grant from the Verizon Foundation.


Donnelly, E., Valentine, C. and Oehme, K. (2015), "Law enforcement officers and Employee Assistance Programs", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 206-220.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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