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This entry examines the causes of critical incident stress in law enforcement officers. It discusses how, by identifying critical incident stressors and the personal, team, and organizational factors that render them meaningful, law enforcement agencies can proactively influence officers' critical incident stress outcomes. To appreciate how this can be accomplished, it is necessary to understand the role of mental models in the etiology of critical incident stress.

Through their training and operational experiences, officers develop mental models that determine their ability to adapt to and impose meaning on the incidents they attend. Furthermore, officers respond to incidents as members of law enforcement organizations whose culture (through interaction with colleagues, senior officers, and organizational procedures) influences the development and maintenance of mental models and thus how challenging ...

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