The association between abusive policing and PTSD symptoms among U.S. police officers

Jordan Devylder, Monique Lalane, Lisa Fedina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Initiatives to curb police abuse in the United States are often viewed as “antipolice” or politically unpopular. Efforts to address police violence may be more acceptable if abusive practices are shown to have an adverse impact on officers themselves. This study investigates potential associations between involvement in abusive policing practices and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among active-duty police officers in the United States. Method: We used Qualtrics Panels to recruit active-duty police officers in the U.S. (N = 137). Linear regression was used to model associations between abusive police practices and PTSD, adjusting for adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and workplace trauma. Results: Approximately 11% of police officers self-reported involvement in abusive police practices. Abusive police practices were independently associated with higher levels of PTSD symptoms (B = 0.22, p = 0.008) even when controlling for ACEs and workplace trauma. Conclusions: Officers who engage in abusive policing are more likely to report PTSD symptoms. Findings suggest that reducing police violence may benefitbothofficers and civilians. Further, mental health interventions targeting police officers may reduce the likelihood of police abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-273
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Society for Social Work and Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Police abuse
  • Police violence
  • Stress
  • Trauma
  • Victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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