Morele fitheid en risico’s in de frontlinie

Werken in de frontlinie vereist niet alleen fysieke en mentale maar ook morele fitheid. Een betere term is wellicht moreel vermogen. In dit onderzoek bespreken de auteurs de morele risico’s van politie werk: morele stress, morele verwonding en ethische uitputting en nog veel meer. En de belangrijke rol van moreel leiderschap. Ik haal er zeven punten uit en raad je aan het onderzoek zelf te lezen en niet klakkeloos van mij over te nemen. Feedback altijd welkom.

1.      Morele risico’s

Politie werk kent morele risico’s waaronder morele stress, etische uitputting en morele verwonding. Bijvoorbeeld doordat er een conflict is tussen de eigen waarden en die van de organisatie: “  

“Moral distress also occurs when officers experience a conflict between what they believe is morally right and what they are ordered by their supervisors to do or by what the organization’s policies mandate them to do”.

Morele verwonding is een ander risico en te onderscheiden van PTSS. Morele verwonding kan ontstaan als:

”Police officers can experience a moral injury when they are ordered to perform enforcement actions that run contrary to their personal values, which leaves them with feelings of guilt or shame. It can also result from feelings of anger when officers feel betrayed by the behavior of trusted colleagues and/or supervisors, including when supervisors give orders that officers view as morally wrong. 

Maar ook omgaan met voortdurend negatieve reacties van de samenleving kan tot morele en emotionele stress leiden.

2.      Compassie

Politie mensen willen iets betekenen voor de samenleving en zijn compassie vol:

“This is a quality shared by the vast majority of police officers. Their compassion makes them good cops. Unfortunately, police training does not typically nurture this compassion and, in some cases, actually discourages it. Even when an agency’s culture reinforces officers’ compassion and service orientation, constant exposure to the worst that society has to offier leads many officers to experience compassion fatigue and other forms of emotional and spiritual distress.

Therefore, police leaders have to establish academy and advanced offcer continuing education training curricula that promote officers’ service orientation and provide tools for them to use in their battle against this distress.

3.      Kruisende paden

Morele stress en niet moreel gedrag zijn aan elkaar verbonden in sommige gevallen:

“The two paths converge and impact each other. Some of the moral risks that cause officers to experience emotional and/or spiritual distress lead to lapses in ethical decision-making. Likewise, officers’ emotional and spiritual distress is exacerbated by their acts of misconduct.

For example, research has demonstrated that emotional exhaustion can lead to increased incidence rates of depression and anxiety among police ocers [14]. Other research, not on a police sample, showed a relationship between anxiety and increases in unethical behavior [15]. Thus, although not yet empirically validated, police executives should be concerned that ocers who experience work-related anxiety may be more prone to engage in unethical behavior.

4.      Het eerlijke verhaal toch vertellen

De auteurs menen dat in de selectie fase het hele verhaal moet worden verteld:

“This is a tough balancing act when attempting to attract people to the profession, but a necessary step to take.

Your recruiters and background investigators should not be salespersons who romanticize the job. They should not be incentivized by the number of new hires they bring to the agency. Moreover, your efforts should go beyond a realistic narrative.

Applicants should be exposed to the various rigors and mundanities of the job. Rather than rushing through the hiring process, police leaders will be better served by slowing down and providing applicants with a clearer, more realistic understanding of what lies ahead”

5.      Leiderschap en morele moed

Moreel leiderschap bestaat onder meer uit morele moed volgens de auteurs.

“Moral courage, most simply, is the willingness to do the right thing even when it is not popular and even at the risk of some negative consequences. If leaders want their officers to do the right thing, no matter what, when interacting with the public, then the leaders have to model moral courage.

The second aspect of moral courage is organizational and relates to the ways in which police leaders embolden courage to be displayed within the agency. A culture of wellness and ethics encourages employees to speak up and to offer solutions when a problem, or potential problem, is identified. Without morally courageous leaders, employees are not likely to point out wrongdoing or a lack of fairness for fear of retaliation.

6.      Op elkaar letten

In plaats van te zeggen ‘wat is er mis met jou’ zou het mooi zijn als er wordt gevraagd ‘hoe is het met je’? Morele fitheid vraagt om ‘op elkaar letten’. Ook leren signalen te herkennen van morele stress, verwonding en compassie vermoeidheid. Het artikel beschrijft deze signalen.

7.      “Hurt people hurt people,”

Deze quote viel me op en is een trigger om alert op te zijn als organisatie. “Operationally, this philosophy will help officers to avoid unnecessary escalations with community members who are suffering the effects of traumatization. Organizationally, however, a trauma informed approach recognizes that officers who are experiencing the negative impacts of the moral risks of policing are more likely to act in ways that hurt themselves and others. 


Blumberg DM, Papazoglou K, Schlosser MD. Organizational Solutions to the Moral Risks of Policing. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2020; 17(20):7461.