The aim of this study is to investigate whether police problem behaviors decline over time as officers gain experience, or whether they rise again as officers approach or pass the typical year of retirement.
Research hypotheses were tested examining mean citizen complaint rates by years of experience, for a cohort of officers for a 14‐year period at the aggregate level, and a semi‐parametric, group‐based approach at the individual level, to estimate developmental trajectories of officers who follow similar pathways over time.
While at the aggregate level rates of citizen complaints steadily decline between years 4 and 23, there were three trajectories underlying this aggregate pattern. These trajectories differed in terms of their magnitude, but all exhibit a general decline over time, except for the most problematic group. For this group, problem behaviors began to rise between years 16 and 23.
This study relies on citizen complaints as the primary indicator, which can over‐ and under‐represent problem behavior, was done in a large agency, which may not be representative, and does not include information on geographic assignment or arrest productivity over time.
Research findings suggest that for the most problematic officers, problem behaviors may exhibit an increase near retirement.
This study employs a longitudinal data set, which can examine within‐officer change in problem behaviors over time.
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