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144 Prevalence of adverse childhood experiences in a national sample of U.S. law enforcement officers
  1. Jennifer Thompson1,
  2. Katelyn Jetelina2,
  3. Robey Champine3
  1. 1UT Health Science Center, Austin, USA
  2. 2UT Health Science Center, Dallas, USA
  3. 3Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA


Statement of Purpose To describe the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among law enforcement officers (LEOs) and compare to the general population.

Methods/Approach Currently employed LEOs were invited to participate on an online survey. Officers were recruited through convenience sampling via professional networks and/or agencies. The survey captured self-reported data on officer and agency demographics and utilized validated instruments assessing ACEs. Univariate and bivariate statistics (e.g., chi-square) were leveraged to assess ACEs across demographics and employment history.

Results Of the 225 participants, the majority were male (80%), White (90%), non-Hispanic (91%), serving an urban area (75%) and college educated (75%). Twenty-eight percent of LEOs reported no ACE, 22% reported one, 19% reported two, 7% reported three, and 25% reported four ACEs or more. Among the types of ACEs, participants reported the highest prevalence of emotional abuse (41%) followed by physical abuse (36%). Compared to the general population, LEOs had significantly higher number of 4+ ACEs (25% vs 16%). Compared to data from a sample of insured patients, LEOs reported quadruple the proportion of emotional abuse (41% v 11%) and double the proportions of those with an incarcerated household member (8% v 5%).

Conclusion LEOs experience high rates of ACEs compared to the general population. In particular, officers in this sample reported exceptionally high levels of emotional abuse. Further research should explore how ACES differentially impact positive (like, resiliency) and negative (like, use of force) outcomes among professionals who are repeatedly exposed to high stress and traumatic events.

Significance This is the first study to assess the prevalence and predictors of ACEs among LEOs. To successfully improve the occupational health and safety of officers, as well as improve the interaction between LEOs and the community, the high rate of ACEs should be studied further.

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