A recent study released by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) has highlighted a growing problem in the federal workforce that has, until recently, attracted very little attention. According to the MSPB survey, which was conducted in 2010 but not released until this fall, almost 15 percent of federal workers stated they had witnessed workplace violence in the years 2008-2010. This far outpaces the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey, in which only 5 percent of private-sector workers had reported the same. The numbers reported in the MSPB survey proved very surprising to analysts, as well as the fact that 54 of the witnessed workplace violence issues were caused by current or former co-workers.
This uptick in federal workplace violence is especially prevalent in federal law enforcement agencies. While all government employees deal with stress on a regular basis, oftentimes federal law enforcement officers must cope with the additional burden of violence being a constant presence. The effect of government cost-cutting has served to both increase workplace tension while also cutting the necessary support infrastructure for federal law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officers already doing a difficult job must now also deal with the specter of impending budget cuts, the threat of furloughs, frozen pay scales, and increased workloads. Jon Adler, the national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association says that the federal law enforcement community “may be seeing an epidemic of short fuses created by Congress’ inability to properly fund agencies and protect pay for federal law enforcement…we are left with a lot of tension which could ultimately create violent incidents in the workplace.”
Adler suggests that federal law enforcement agencies create peer groups to provide officers with a forum for discussing their frustrations in a safe environment and productive manner. In addition, the report also emphasizes that federal law enforcement officers in all agencies should be made aware of the growing problem and develop methods of investigating and resolving these issues.
The MSPB report also recommends:
- Establishing guidelines that have clear outlines of responsibility in preventing and reacting to workplace violence.
- Collecting more information on federal workplace violence in order to help prevent further incidents.
- Promoting collaboration between managers, supervisors, employees, and federal law enforcement officers to aid in creating a workplace environment less conducive to violence.
FEDS provides professional liability insurance for the entire federal law enforcement community. For information on your specific exposures, how professional liability insurance protects, or how the FEDS program differs from other insurance programs, visit us on the web at fedsprotection.com and choose the position or agency that best describes your job and professional responsibilities.