Addressing Law Enforcement Burnout Takes an Inside Job


May 17, 2021

uniform officer looking at law LADDER dispositon cards
LSU's Leadership Development Institute worked with the Baton Rouge Police Department and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office to pilot Law LADDER.

BATON ROUGE, LA- LSU’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI) has joined forces with Baton Rouge Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Foundation, a non-profit organization geared toward providing critical information and resources to ensure excellence in law enforcement practices and relations with the East Baton Rouge community. LDI is one of the two organizations providing commissioned research projects from local experts to advance knowledge in law enforcement and to support public safety within the state.

Director Leslie Blanchard, PhD says, “LDI's role in this collaboration is to provide a renewed focus on mental health and wellness for law enforcement officers and to help them develop the leadership dispositions necessary to avoid burnout and turnover and ultimately to bring their best selves to work every day.” 

Common stressors for law enforcement professionals include grueling schedules, overtime demands, negative comments from the public and loss of team members. LDI is in the process of validating Law LADDER (Leadership Alphabet for Disposition Development Engagement and Reflection), a customized, development training program that targets combating burnout in law enforcement professionals.  The evidence-based assessment incorporates stress management, self-reflection, and assessment into the work that’s done on the job every day. LDI has met with experts at both the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office (EBRSO) on multiple occasions to present Law LADDER and to collect data and insight to identify the specific challenges Law Enforcement professionals face at all levels in the parish. 

The model has garnered rave reviews from panelists. 

“This tool has enormous potential to assist in helping recruit, inspire, and sustain our most valuable resource (in law enforcement) - our dedicated and courageous employees. Recognizing the power of terminology in professional development can directly and positively impact recruitment an on-going training which can increase service longevity”, says Catherine Fontenot, 28-year corrections professional with EBRSO. 

A key indicator of turnover in any profession is employee burnout. The term “burnout” actually carries a negative connotation in law enforcement, however dialogue around the topic is needed due to the list of downward domino effects it causes. Employee turnover in the policing profession results in significant costs to agencies. Direct financial tolls include the loss of the performance and expertise of the employee, as well as the recruitment, screening, and training costs of replacement hires (Evans, Christopher, & Stoffel, 2000; Weisberg & Kirschenbaum, 1991). Beside the direct screening and training costs, there is also lower productivity of new hires as they are trained. Even after the academy preparation, there is a significant learning curve for new officers trying to master their complex job.  

As for the negative effects of law enforcement turnover on those outside of the profession, high turnover can result in inexperienced officers who have not cultivated networks and relationships with the community. Rapport and proper communication lines are essential for officers to be effective at their jobs. Their lack of experience can also lead to improper practices and misconduct in the community as well.  

Law LADDER has the potential to be a major leap toward a better future for law enforcement professionals, and then the community at large.  

Clay Young, chairman of the Baton Rouge Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Foundation, says, “It is my hope that LDI’s research and Law LADDER will help give an improved perspective about the relationship between law enforcement and the communities, they serve.”  

This inaugural partnership will be a catalyst for meaningful strides in the lives of service professionals and citizens across Louisiana.