Alcohol and the Police: An Empirical Examination of a Widely-Held Assumption

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Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, and Security


Purpose - Popular literature has theorized that police officers consume more alcohol than the general population. However, only a minuscule amount of research has been conducted on this phenomenon. The perceived consumption of police in the USA has been related to stress or social camaraderie issues, a dichotomous debate which has continued for years. This study seeks to enhance the debate by addressing the reported reasoning that police officers' use of alcohol is related to location, type of department, and size of population in which the officer operates. Design/methodology/approach - A total of 1,328 full-time Mississippi Municipal, Sheriff, and State police officers were asked to complete a 27-item self-reported questionnaire containing the World Health Organization's AUDIT instrument to determine alcohol use and risk. Findings - Most of the officers surveyed reported drinking levels of alcohol equivalent to those reported in the general population. Moreover, 70 percent of the officers either abstained from alcohol or drank less than once a month. This study found no difference in the motivation to consume alcohol as it related to location, type of department or population size. However, the study did find that a true dichotomy over the stress and social debate does not actually exist. The researchers found a third factor that police reported for consuming alcohol. Originality/value - Given the opportunity the researchers had, surveying after Hurricane Katrina, their finding no difference in the homogeneity in the state reassured the researchers that environmental stressors were not associated with the alcohol consumption of officers.

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Policing-An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management





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