How can workplace spirituality serve in law enforcement and policing?

How can workplace spirituality serve in law enforcement and policing?

There is mounting concern over the allegations by US citizenry and groups like Black Lives Matter regarding alleged excessive use of force by police. Though there are significant differences in each of the allegations of overuse of force by police, one question in need of some answers is how police officers are providing effective policing to the community, and should there be a cause for concern at this time? In some recent studies in the Law Enforcement literature, there are indications that police officers can experience a disproportionate number of stress related pressures that translate to higher divorce rates, earlier death, increased suicides, alcohol/drug abuse, and violence in the home (Smith & Charles, 2010). Few would deny that most police officers are professional and altruistic, able to avoid the trap of feeling victimized. However, it is a real issue when it is framed within a policing sub-culture that is often very militaristic (Balko, 2013), and a poor policing model found in some performance driven police departments, which place an emphasis on high arrest numbers, sometimes leading to actions deemed inhumane (Sparrow, 2016). The negative perception by many is so real that major media attention has led to the televising of several town halls with police chiefs and law enforcement leaders taking center stage[1] engaging in dialogue regarding the issue, seeking a meaningful approach toward a solution. A new approach to policing would take into consideration the spiritual essence of policing and how workplace spirituality (WS) can play a greater role in law enforcement (Charles, 2009; Feemster, 2009; McDonough, 2011; Willis, 2010). The potential for this approach is high, since values associated with WS like empathy, integrity, compassion, and trustworthiness, are also viewed as integral to community policing (Diamond & Weiss, 2009). The challenge is to conceptualize spirituality in law enforcement meaningfully to allow it to become operational in policing (Feemster & Collins, 2010; Willis, 2010).

Reflecting on this topic of workplace spirituality in the general organizational literature, what may be some principles or concepts that can be transferable to law enforcement culture and policing? And what are possible challenges for implementing such a workplace culture in law enforcement that is parallel to organizations across the board?  Feel free to cite the literature in support of your comments.



Balko, R. (2013). Rise of the Warrior Cop: The militarization of America’s police forces. New

            York:  Public Affairs.

Charles, G. (2009, May). How Spirituality is Incorporated in Police Work. FBI Law

Enforcement Bulletin, 22-25.

Diamond, D. & Weiss, D.M. (2009). Community Policing: Looking to Tomorrow. COPS: Police

            Executive Research Forum.

Feemster, S. L. (2009, January). Spirituality: An invincible weapon for wounded warriors. FBI

Law Enforcement Bulletin. Retrieved from

Feemster, S.L. & Collins, J. V. (2010). Beyond Survival Toward Officer Wellness (BeSTOW):

            Targeting law enforcement training. The Police Chief: The professional voice of law

            enforcement, November 10.

McDonough, M.E. (2011). The Employee Wellness Plan: A Strategy for “Fighting the Evil

from Within.” Retrieved from


Smith, J. & Charles, G. (2010). The Relevance of Spirituality in Policing: A dual analysis.

            Journal of Police Science & Management, 12(3).

Sparrow, M. (2016). Handcuffed: What holds policing back and the keys to reform. Washington:

Brookings Institution Press.

Willis, D.S. (2010, December). The Practice of Spirituality and Emotional Wellness in Law

            Enforcement. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Retrieved from



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