Title

A Profile of the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officer: An Alcohol Consumption Study

Date of Award

2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Studies and Research

First Advisor

Kyna Shelley

Advisor Department

Educational Studies and Research

Abstract

The United States law enforcement occupation is speculated in literature to have one of the highest abuse rates of alcoholic beverages, roughly twice that of the general population. Yet, no known quantitative research profiling alcohol consumption has been conducted. Researchers have attributed the fear of repercussion and the code of silence to the lack of data on this phenomenon. This study sought to confront the informational void. Its purpose was to determine the alcohol consumption patterns among a pool of Mississippi police officers. A 25 item questionnaire, incorporating the World Health Organization's AUDIT instrument, was designed to obtain demographics, drinking behaviors, and identify officers who may have risk patterns of alcohol problems. This questionnaire was distributed to the participants, 663 full time Mississippi police officers, sheriff's deputies, and state police officers, who reported their work either as field officers or administrators within the year 2006. The findings were enlightening. The officers drank an average of 2.79 drinks approximately 4.8 times a month. Additionally, 18.2% of the officers scored above an 8 on the AUDIT instrument, which labeled them at or above a harmful risk level for alcohol problems. The researcher found that age, marital status, race, region, and with whom they drank, were significant predictors of alcohol risk. However, gender and rank were not found to be significant. Furthermore, factor analysis disclosed interesting conclusions on the reasons officers reported that they drank alcohol. The researcher found that the risk level of the officers held statistically significant differences in three factors: fitting in, F (2, 29) = 12.518, p<.001; social animal, F (2, 29) = 25.658, p<.001; and stress, F (2, 29) = 5.179, p<.012. However, contrary to current literature, the researcher found no statistically significant difference in the amount of alcohol consumed by police and the general population of the United States. Furthermore, the rate of consumption of those police officers who drank was within healthy parameters. In Mississippi at least, the abuse of alcohol within the police community seems to be marginal. There are, however, a handful of officers with risk behavior that demand administrative intervention.