Stress and Burnout in Policing: Does Military Experience Matter?


Purpose: Expanding on earlier research, this paper aims to develop a more complete understanding of military experience as it relates to stress and burnout in law enforcement. The current study examines whether influences on stress and burnout vary between officers with military experience and officers without a military background. Design/methodology/approach: Data for this study were obtained from earlier research on police staff at a Northeastern metropolitan city. A combination of analytic methods, including t‐tests and multivariate regression analysis, were used to explore the effects of variables on stress and burnout among military and non‐military officers. Findings: The results indicate that negative exposures to demanding events influenced burnout for all officers. In contrast, negative exposures affected stress levels for those officers with no military experience. Coping techniques were important predictors of stress and burnout for both groups; however, contrary to expectations, police experience in years was not significant in any model. Demographic controls had no influence on stress and burnout for either group, with the exception of gender, which was a significant predictor of stress only for the non‐military group. Research limitations/implications: This research has implications for police departments interested in developing group‐based strategies for reducing stress and burnout among officers. The findings are limited in their capacity for wide geographical generalization, however, because this study represents the views of only one department. Originality/value: In contrast with previous empirical work, the findings here demonstrate that military experience can have a favorable influence on the work outcomes of police officers. This study suggests that officers with military backgrounds are less stressed when faced with demanding situations and that military experience provides female officers with an edge in handling work‐related stressors.


Criminology and Criminal Justice

Document Type





stress, policing, armed forces, law enforcement, experience, United States of America

Publication Date


Journal Title

Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management