Working in the police service can be very demanding on a physical and emotional level.
Many police offers often experience stress, trauma and anxiety which even sometimes leads
to suicide. In order to deal with the stressors they face, officers have to use various coping
methods. This present study aims to analyse the coping strategies used by police officers in
the SAPS and whether these coping strategies change over a period of time. The main
purpose is to investigate which coping responses are used most by police officers in the
SAPS and to determine how the prominence of these coping responses change over a period
of time. This study has a longitudinal approach and will add value to the body of research
since no longitudinal study has previously been conducted on coping within the SAPS. Three
samples, collected at three different points in time, were used in this study. The first sample
(n = 1277) was collected while the officers were newly enrolled, the second sample (n = 463)
was taken whilst they were undergoing practical training in the college and the last sample (n
= 120) was collected when the police officers had spent two years in the field. The Ways of
Coping (WoC) questionnaire was used as measuring instrument. The results of this study
suggest that police officers predominantly use seeking social support, planful problem
solving and positive reappraisal to deal with their daily stress. These responses are mainly
seen as adaptive ways of dealing with stress. The coping responses used least includes escape
avoidance, accepting responsibility and confrontive coping. There are clear indications that
the way in which police officers use coping responses change over time spent in the SAPS.
Over time, police officers accepted significantly less responsibility, and made less use of
confrontive coping. Police officers also relied more on planful problem solving, positive
reappraisal and escape avoidance. On a practical level it is suggested to conduct interventions
in all units, divisions and on all levels to reinforce and refresh positive coping strategies in
order to enhance the emotional well-being throughout the SAPS.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2016.