‘The Devil I Know’: Explaining Police Officer Intention to Transfer to Another Department

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Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, and Security


Police workforce management has persisted as a major organizational concern. Numerous compelling historical and organizational factors have contributed to smaller numbers of qualified or even interested applicants for police agencies to choose from, and disrupted police career longevity and even police services overall. To address their staffing needs, a growing number of organizations have increasingly shifted their focus to recruiting existing sworn and experienced officers from other departments. While there is increasing concern about officers transferring across organizations, little research has examined officer intentions to move laterally within the police profession, why officers choose to stay or leave, and the implications for staffing. Using theories of cross-organizational turnover from career psychology and a robust sample of more than 600 officers from 8 police agencies, this paper explores the impact of compensation, organizational values, perceptions of supervisors, and career advancement opportunities on officers’ intentions to pursue lateral transfers. Results indicated that compensation had limited influence on intentions to leave and that organizational characteristics exhibited much stronger relationships. Suggestions for keeping officers and assisting recruits in finding their potential organizational fit, impressions of the trajectory of this trend, and implications for theory and practice are offered.

Publication Title

Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice



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