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Missing and Out of Action: Role Conflict and Role Abandonment among Law Enforcement Officers in times of Disaster Terri Adams, Ph.D. Research Assistant:

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Presentation on theme: "Missing and Out of Action: Role Conflict and Role Abandonment among Law Enforcement Officers in times of Disaster Terri Adams, Ph.D. Research Assistant:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Missing and Out of Action: Role Conflict and Role Abandonment among Law Enforcement Officers in times of Disaster Terri Adams, Ph.D. Research Assistant: Mila Turner Howard University

2 In the event of a disaster or any major crisis event, first responders are relied upon for mitigation, response, and recovery efforts. They are relied upon heavily in the midst of a crisis; hence, it’s imperative that we seek to better understand first responder behaviors. Failure to do so can result in inadequate preparation, mitigation, and recovery efforts. First Responder Behaviors

3  Currently, most of the nation's preparation, response, and recovery plans for potential man-made and natural catastrophic events presuppose that first responders will respond in the event of a disaster.  However, media reports of neglect of duty among police officers in New Orleans, during the Hurricane Katrina crisis challenges this assumption. First Responder Behaviors

4  The divergent responses of NOPD officers to the Katrina crisis raises at least two critical questions:  What can we expect when first responders are personally impacted by a disaster?  Is abandonment of duty a potential issue that needs to be considered by first responder agencies during high consequence events? Research Questions

5 The ineluctable threat of future natural and manmade disasters makes it imperative to advance the understanding of key issues that first responders face, and to develop meaningful strategies for preparing them for disaster response.

6  “Society demands that the police shall function even in unexpected and dynamic situations.” Lyle, 1996  …however, they remain human. First Responder Behaviors

7  Although trained to respond under pressure, first responders are susceptible to the same fear induced cognitive processes that are associated with human response to extreme stress.  The degree to which individuals can effectively respond to threats is heavily influenced by the amount of fear elicited by the threatening stimuli (Leventhal & Niles, 1964; Leventhal & Watts, 1966).  Although trained to respond under pressure, first responders are susceptible to the same fear induced cognitive processes that are associated with human response to extreme stress.  The degree to which individuals can effectively respond to threats is heavily influenced by the amount of fear elicited by the threatening stimuli (Leventhal & Niles, 1964; Leventhal & Watts, 1966).

8 Role Conflict Role Strain Abandonment of Duty Core Themes Discussed

9  Role theory informs us that there are a variety of different kinds of roles that exist for individuals within society.  These roles can be categorized as being formal or informal, and can be associated with familial, societal, or occupational responsibilities and identities (Adams & Turner, 2013). What is role conflict?

10 The role of law enforcement officers is defined by a set of ideals SolidarityHonorIsolationBraverySecrecyDanger

11 The Police Subculture  The ideal officer, according to police subculture:  Takes risks (honor)  Is first on scene to aid a fellow police officer (loyalty)  Can handle any situation in his/her own way (individuality)  Officers’ coping strategies:  Humor  Keeping emotional distance from themselves and stressful events  Blue wall of silence: Figurative protective barrier erected by police in which officers protect one another from outsiders, often even refusing to aid superiors or other officials in investigating wrongdoing of other officers

12  When the expectations of the role and the needs or values of the individual occupying the role are incongruous, a person-role conflict occurs.  Another type of role conflict that has been distinguished in the literature is inter-role, which is the incompatibility among two or more roles held by one individual.  The latter is most commonly associated with the basic term “role conflict.” However, role conflict has been conceptualized in numerous ways with dissension about what the term actually constitutes. Role C0nflict

13  “…the dilemma of making an immediate choice between various roles” (Killian, 1952).  “…conflicting group loyalties and contradictory roles resulting from multiple-group membership” (Killian, 1952).  “…[when] situations are so ordered that an actor is required to fill simultaneously two or more roles that present inconsistent, contradictory, or even mutually exclusive expectations” (Getzels&Guba, 1954). What is role conflict?

14  Roles are often rooted in one’s social identity and group affiliations.  Tajfel and Turner (1979) have noted that a person’s self-concept is derived from their personal identity as well as their social identity.

15  Which did you consider first: your role in your family, your job, or what you do during your spare time?

16  Killian (1952) suggested that the primary group membership would trump secondary group membership during times of disaster, and predicted that role abandonment was possible among emergency workers.  White (1962) informs us that responders will make decisions between their job and family responsibilities based on “whichever opportunity happens to present itself first.”  Rogers (1986) discovered that the first responders’ proximity to a significant other “both victims and socially related,” during the impact of an event was related to the “type of emergency response possible and the nature of any associated conflicting role expectation.”  Dynes’ (1986) work lends support to the concepts of “role moratorium,” “role reduction,” and “role simplification” whereby only tasks relevant to the emergency situation are performed while irrelevant roles and duties are eliminated or temporarily suspended. Role Conflict

17  The difficulty in fulfilling role obligations (Goode, 1960).  Individuals “may face different types of role demands and conflicts” that she/he “feels as ‘role strains’ when” she/he “wishes to carry out specific obligations.”  Occurs when an individual finds it difficult to fulfill the multiple demands of a role. What is role strain?

18  Role Conflict occurs when a person has to try to fulfill multiple role expectations.  Role strain occurs when a person experiences difficulty in fulfilling the expectations of a role.  Role abandonment can occur as a response to role conflict or role strain. So What’s the Difference?

19  Permanently leaving place of duty without permission from superiors;  Leaving place of duty without permission from superiors and with no intention of returning during a critical period of time;  Leaving place of duty for an extended period of time without permission from superiors; and  Temporarily leaving place of duty for a short period of time without permission from superiors. What constitutes abandonment of duty?

20  A large portion of the literature examines role conflict in relation to the conflict between family life and occupational responsibilities.  Most of the literature argues that role conflict is not an issue among first responders.  In general abandonment of duty appears not to be an issue. General Findings

21  Qualitative & Quantitative Methodological Design  The project was carried out in three phases for each of the study sites: (1) collection of background information, (2) collection of survey data, and (3) collection of face-to-face interview data.  Concepts associated with response behavior in disasters are measured, i.e. threat perceptions, role conflict, role strain, role abandonment, feelings of isolation, coping mechanisms, motivational factors, and perceptions of professional responsibility.  The project examined these core concepts among police officers that served as first responders during the Hurricane Katrina crisis in New Orleans, Louisiana and Gulfport, Mississippi (2005), as well as the earthquake in Santiago, Chile (2010). Analytic Approach

22  Focus of this talk will be on law enforcement officers who served during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  The data reported on include:  New Orleans - archival data  Gulfport - survey and face-to-face interview data

23

24 Contextual Information  Major infrastructure damage  Loss of headquarters and three police district stations  Massive vehicle damage/destruction  Loss of equipment  80 officers were stranded & in need of assistance  2 officers committed suicide  Failed communication systems

25 Effects of Communication Loss on Operations  Stifled flow of information between upper management, mid-level management, and patrol officers.  Impacted the police operations as mid-level managers had to make key decisions.  Impacted the dissemination of information to the media.  NOPD resorted to using runners to transfer messages and information between police units.

26  Abandonment of duty took place among the New Orleans police officers.  Media outlets reported 200 officers abandoned post (Benjamin 2005).  According to former Superintendent Riley, 147 officers left or abandoned post sometime during the storm (Testimony of Warren J. Riley 2006).  The department lost anywhere from eight to 11 percent of the operating force of 1,750 officers. Findings – NOPD

27  The officers who were accused of abandoning their posts were categorized based on the degree of their infraction; those whose actions were considered to be most egregious were fired from the department, while others were suspended without pay for up to four months.  Eventually 51 NOPD employees were fired - 45 officers and six civilian employees - for post abandonment before or after Hurricane Katrina (MSNBC, 2005).

28  Review of archival data illustrated the following:  Over 90% of the officers who left their post left to attend to loved ones; some of whom did not evacuate the city prior to the storm, while others had family members who evacuated to other cities

29 What factors influenced officers who abandoned their posts?

30 In their own words: Female officer absent for 5 days after the storm  “I’ve been on the job for 7 years. I’m a very good officer, a very good officer. My work speaks for itself. It wasn’t about me being a coward. It was not about me being scared because I’ve worked in the St. Bernard, Iberville, and Lafitte Housing Developments for four years and I’m considered one of the toughest even among the men, so it wasn’t about me being scared. My main objective was to take care of my four year old daughter. I was abandoned as a child and I didn’t want my daughter to feel that way. And that was my reason for leaving, my only reason for leaving. “

31 In their own words: Male officer absent for 2 days after the storm  “I mean, like I say, everybody had their own circumstances that they had to deal with during Katrina. Some – you know some panicked. A lot – I mean a lot of us panicked. I’m not going to lie and say that, you know I wasn’t a little bit upset or scared about what was going on. I just feel that, you know, each individual case should have been taken individually and not maybe across the board standard for all disciplinary actions.”

32 Concerns about family members I know I am a police officer and I had a duty to perform but I could not perform that duty because I was thinking about my family.

33 I left the city due to the fact that “everything was in chaos.” I could not locate my supervisor and I was not given any directives as to the proper course of action to take after the storm. Basically, it was every man for himself. Concerns about personal safety

34 My house was completely submerged in water. I was forced to wait on the roof until rescued by NOPD…I made it to the station where everything was in complete chaos... I was distraught from the incident at my home but they wanted me to patrol the streets. I was not mentally ready to work and needed time to regroup but was told that I did not have the luxury of time. Feelings of distress

35 Hurricane Katrina, Gulfport, MS

36 Private and public housing was destroyed Casinos and other businesses were destroyed Historical infrastructures were severely damaged Hospitals were greatly damaged Government buildings were destroyed Contextual Information

37 Police headquarters was destroyed Electrical power was wiped out Cell phone towers were wiped out Highway 90 was ravaged Roadways were blocked due to storm damage Gasoline was in short supply

38  There were no media reports of abandonment of duty among the law enforcement officers in Gulfport.  When officials were asked if any of their personnel abandoned post, the general response was that this was not an issue in this department. GPD - Findings

39 Methods Participant characteristics:  Female 2.6%  Male 97.4%  Single 13.2%  Married68.4%  Separated 2.6%  Divorced 13.2%  Widowed 2.6%  Patrol officer 60.5%  Sergeant 26.3%  Lieutenant 10.5%  Administrative officer 2.6%  Collected both qualitative and quantitative data  This analysis is based largely on the quantitative data  Surveyed officers in the Gulfport Police Department:

40  84% of the respondents felt that their personal safety was at risk as a result of the predicted severity of the storm.  42% of the officers reported not having any evacuation plans prior to Katrina.  Less than one-third of the officers reported being able to safely assist loved ones in evacuating before Katrina made landfall. Quantitative Findings

41  79% of the officers felt that participating in the recovery and law enforcement activities during the Katrina crisis conflicted with their family obligations.  88% of married officers reported experiencing role conflict compared to less than 67% of single or separated officers.  All of the female officers reported experiencing role conflict compared to 82% of the male officers.  A larger percentage of higher-ranking officers reported experiencing role conflict compared to patrol officers. Preliminary Findings

42  70% of those who could not safely evacuate loved one prior to the storm experienced role conflict  53.5% of those who suffered property damage as a result of the disaster experienced role conflict  37% of those who reported that the predicted severity of the storm made them concerned about the safety of their loved ones indicated that they experienced role conflict  60% of those who were not able to maintain communication with their loved ones indicated they experienced role conflict

43 In their own words:

44 “Sure, there was role conflict. I lost everything I owned but I’m still or even at the time, was married to the department.” People realize that you have to take care of your family first and your job second.” “No. I was fortunate enough to be the only one in my family down here. And me and my girlfriend we took care of each other so it wasn’t an issues going to work, so it wasn’t an issues going to work I wasn’t bother by it at all. “ Parents lived nearby, took 3 days to find out they were okay and lost house; handled it with denial

45  Dissimilar to previous research, this study found support for the existence of role conflict among police officers during the Katrina disaster.  The inability to communicate with loved ones heightens the concern among officers.  The inability to safely evacuate loved ones heightens levels of concern among officers.  Despite felling conflict between roles and duties, abandonment of duty does not appear to be a major problem among responders. The differences experienced by the NOPD and GPD may be a result of the differences in situational conditions (types of conditions, degree of chaos experienced), department size, and culture of the department.  However, context matters, some officers may leave post temporarily without notice to take care of personnel responsibilities.  Is this post abandonment? CONTEXT MATTERS Summary of Findings

46  Previous findings indicating that role conflict is not a problem among first responders may be contingent upon the nature of the disaster incidents on which the data are based, as well as the types of reporting agents used in each of the studies. For instance, Dynes (1986) interviewed organization officials who may be less inclined to disclose role abandonment among their employees. Additionally, a disaster may cause less role conflict if it does not immediately impact the responder or his/her loved ones at the time of the initial occurrence of the disaster.  This study’s findings highlight the existence of role conflict among responders who are personally impacted by the disaster in which they are expected to respond.

47  Establish alternate communication networks  Establish evacuation plans prior to threat  Develop social support and caretaker systems  Provide education in disaster stress & strains Implications of Findings


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