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Published: 2024-02-02 Updated: 2024-02-06, 06:54

Despite harassment and stress, police officers are satisfied with their job in general

NEWS Both male and female police officers experience the same level of sexual harassment, but female officers experience a higher level of gender-based harassment both from the public and from colleagues. This is shown in a new doctoral thesis at Umeå University. Despite this, and despite stressful situations, both male and female police officers report high satisfaction in their colleagues and the job in general.

Text: Ola Nilsson

"The results can be a support for the Police Authority to address underlying problems to create a safer and more satisfying workplace that prioritizes the well-being of every police officer," says Arian Rostami, a doctoral student at Umeå University.

In her dissertation at the Department of Epidemiology and Global Health at Umeå University, Arian Rostami has investigated some important factors that can affect police officers' work environment. She studied sexual and gender-based harassment, work stress, and job satisfaction among Swedish police officers. The data is based on a questionnaire study among 152 male and female police officers, interviews with twelve police officers, and a group interview. The survey was conducted in 2020 and the interviews in 2022 among police officers in vulnerable areas in the Stockholm region.

The studies show that police officers are exposed to sexual and gender-based harassment both from the public and criminals, but also from colleagues and managers. Female police officers reported being subjected to gender-based harassment to a much greater extent than their male colleagues. The female police officers could experience being ignored, underestimated and questioned about their competence in police work because of their gender.

On the other hand, not only female but also male police officers experienced sexual harassment in the form of sexualized comments and jokes from their colleagues. Male officers experienced this as much as female officers. However, the majority of those who made these comments and jokes were men. The thesis also shows that, despite the cultural changes in the police organization during recent decades, there is something of a culture of silence that perpetuates the cycle of harassment. The police managers interviewed expressed a clear need for further training and support to effectively address these issues at management level.

"It can be interpreted that men use such harassment as a tool to express power against and humiliate not only women but also their male colleagues. There is still a toxic male jargon within the working environment of the Swedish police force," says Arian Rostami.

The thesis also examined different types of work stress.  Police officers reported a high level of stress around police interventions and the risks that can befall their colleagues and important people in their lives. These pressures were higher among female police officers than among their male colleagues. The police officers who experienced sexual harassment also reported higher stress levels.

However, there was no significant relationship between experiencing sexual and gender-based harassment and their job satisfaction. Male and female police officers reported almost the same levels of job satisfaction. They were most satisfied with their colleagues at their job in general while they were dissatisfied with their opportunities for promotion and salary.

Arian Rostami has previously studied Health Education for a master's degree in Iran and has completed her Ph.D. in Social Work at Umea University in 2013. The current doctoral position in Public Health is affiliated with the Unit of Police Work and the Center of Gender Studies at Umea University.

About the public defence of the doctoral thesis

Friday 9 February at 9:00 a.m., Arian Rostami, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health, defends her doctoral thesis Police officers under pressure: Sexual and gender-based harassment, stress and job satisfaction in Sweden. Opponent Magnus Sverke from Stockholm University. Main supervisor Monika Burman. Location: Behavioural Sciences Building, room E.109.


Arian Rostami
Postdoctoral fellow