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Articulating the dynamic police staffing challenge: An examination of supply and demand

Jeremy M. Wilson (School of Criminal Justice, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 25 May 2012




This work aims to summarize literature on police recruitment and retention and how changing conditions may affect these. It uses a bucket metaphor to conceptualize and present visually how these can interact with each other and create a dynamic police staffing challenge.


The literature review includes more than 150 works on police recruitment and retention, organized into discussions on the demand for police, the supply of police, and how systemic and episodic changes affect each.


Existing research suggests police agencies face a threefold challenge in meeting the demand for officers: attrition is likely to increase, sources of new recruits might be decreasing, and police responsibilities are expanding. Attrition might increase because of baby‐boom generation retirements, military call‐ups, changing generational expectations of careers, budget crises, and organizational characteristics. Sources of new recruits might be decreasing because of a decrease in the qualified applicant pool, changing generational preferences in selecting careers, increased competition for persons who might qualify as police officers, expanded skill requirements for police officers, uncompetitive benefits, and many of the organizational characteristics causing attrition. Policing responsibilities are expanding because of new roles in community policing, homeland security, and emerging crimes.


This work summarizes, as no other has previously, the extant research on police recruitment and retention. Many holes remain in the literature, but identifying the extant literature can help identify these and possible means to fill them. Reviewing the extant literature can also help agencies identify the proper lessons to face their own recruitment and retention challenges.



Wilson, J.M. (2012), "Articulating the dynamic police staffing challenge: An examination of supply and demand", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 327-355.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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