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Problem behaviors of students pursuing policing careers

M. Kevin Gray (Department of Law, Politics and Society, University of Evansville, Evansville, Indiana, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 23 August 2011




The current study aims to examine problematic behaviors of college students who identified policing as their career of choice.


A self‐report survey was administered and behaviors such as alcohol and drug use, arrest histories, and self‐reported criminality were identified in a sample of 874 undergraduate students, 171 of whom identified policing as their career goal.


Findings indicate that over 60 percent of students (including those interested in becoming police officers) engage in some level of problematic behavior. While policing students engaged in more excessive recent binge drinking, they had a lower rate of arrests and less other‐than‐marijuana drug use than other students.

Research limitations/implications

This research relies on self‐reported data and therefore under‐ or over‐reporting may occur. While the sample of policing students has similar characteristics to those of current police officers in terms of sex and race, generalizability issues from the entire sample may be present.

Practical implications

Findings suggest the importance of identifying and conveying information to students about problematic behaviors that may prohibit gainful employment. Recruitment implications are discussed for police departments as well as implications for areas of inquiry important for background hiring investigations.


The current research explores problematic behaviors of college students in the context of vocational restrictions that students may face from law enforcement agencies. Findings can better prepare students for such vocations and inform hiring agencies of the range of issues from this population of applicants.



Kevin Gray, M. (2011), "Problem behaviors of students pursuing policing careers", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 541-552.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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