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The police turnover problem: fact or fiction?

Jessica E. Lynch (Australasian Centre for Policing Research, Adelaide, Australia)
Michelle Tuckey (School of Psychology (Magill) University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 7 March 2008




The aim of the present study is to examine, in detail, the magnitude and profile of police turnover across Australasia.


Sworn officer turnover statistics (total separations and voluntary resignations) for four financial years were collected from all Australian and New Zealand police jurisdictions. Comparisons were made with the Australian and international public sector. The age and years of service of resigning officers were also obtained.


Despite concerns about the high level of turnover, benchmarking data showed that total police turnover was lower than in other Australian public sector organizations and comparable with that in international public sector organizations. Voluntary resignations were also lower in policing than in the Australian public sector, but higher than in the international public sector. Further, resignations were the major form of turnover, and female officers resigned at a higher rate than male officers with a peak in the 25‐39‐year age bracket.

Practical implications

Although, over the last few years, turnover within Australasian police organizations has been low, the high proportion of resignations suggests that it is possible to achieve further reductions. This finding has an important implication for police agencies currently experiencing difficulty in maintaining sufficient numbers; namely, that the overall turnover rate in police organizations should be responsive to organizational initiatives. Police jurisdictions should therefore endeavor to investigate the causes of voluntary resignation to inform strategies to minimize avoidable turnover.


In addition to highlighting a variety of issues relevant to the consideration of turnover within policing, the present study obtained objective and reliable data to challenge the alleged problem of high turnover within Australasian policing. The benchmarking conducted here offers a detailed insight into the nature and extent of voluntary turnover within Australasian police organizations, and provides clear directions for future work in this area.



Lynch, J.E. and Tuckey, M. (2008), "The police turnover problem: fact or fiction?", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 6-18.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Authors

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