Being a police officer is never easy, but after a number of protests and violent incidents over the past several months around the nation, including the assassination of two New York City cops, tensions and stress levels remain high.

(David Lentz, ThinkStock)

"You watch the news like anybody else does, and you see the protests in New York and you know that the cops are being assaulted and there's a chance of a dead cop, so it's been a tough time to be a cop," said the president of the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association, Patrick Colligan.

Colligan said police are "not impervious to what's going on" around them.

"And when you watch that, even before the deaths of detectives Ramos and Liu it was not a great environment to be a cop in the last several months," he said.

To help officers deal with increased stress, Colligan said mental health counseling is frequently made available.

"Most police departments have an employee assistance program or an EAP," Colligan said. "We have an on-staff psychologist here for a couple of days a week just to deal with some of those issues. Even during the best of times police work unquestionably can be very stressful, we have an increased rate of alcoholism and unfortunately drug abuse, so it's difficult."

In addition to getting counseling, he said police across New Jersey are being advised to exercise extra caution while on patrol.

"That means not getting into the routines that we find ourselves in. Sometimes we'll sit in the same lot to do a police report or type a report - we're just telling our officers to be a lot more vigilant, maybe change up where you eat. We'd be fools to not be extra careful out there," Colligan said.

He said higher levels of stress are being felt by officers in all departments, even small ones where "you have literally one officer riding in the town, he doesn't have the advantage of having backup."

According to Colligan, cops on the streets of New Jersey should be proud of what they do.

"There's a couple of bad apples but there's bad apples in radio, there's bad apples in the doctor's office, we have the too," he said. "We weed them out eventually but it's just such a small minority. Overall we have great, well trained police in New Jersey, and we're going to go forward in a professional manner."

[onescreen item="http://youtu.be/JefK6cl3l2g"]