Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type

Capstone - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Alicia Malone


Previous research has drawn attention to the discrepancies of mental health between civilians and sworn law enforcement officers. The extant literature shows that law enforcement officers suffer from mental health disorders at far greater rates than the general public (Henderson et al., 2015). Most of the literature focuses on the progression of an officer’s law enforcement career. Little is discussed about prior traumatic experiences in the lives of police officers, especially those experiences which leave lasting scars on officers who go on to possibly relive their own trauma through their work. The current research was intended to fill that void. By looking at prior history of trauma in police officers, the research was to examine adverse childhood experiences in those officers to attempt to help explain the mental health crisis in American police officers. In using the generally accepted Adverse Childhood Experience questionnaire, the research was intended to quantify the mental health issues that officers enter into the profession with, and possibly explain the egregious levels of officer suicide, as well as other negative outcomes. Although the research was unable to be completed as designed, implications are discussed, as well as reasons why the research could not be conducted. From this, discussions regarding preventative treatment occur, including the revamping of mental health screenings of incoming cadets. Strain theory’s importation model is applied to police officer’s experiences. Additional policy implications and directions for future research are discussed.