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Effects of police agency diversification on officer attitudes

Megan Alderden (Research and Analysis Unit, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Amy Farrell (School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
William P. McCarty (Department of Criminology, Law and Justice, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 20 March 2017




In light of recent calls to increase the diversity of America’s police, the purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of agency and leadership diversification on officer job satisfaction and reported perceptions of fairness within the organization, factors known to influence retention and performance.


A survey of 15,236 officers representing 88 agencies was used, as well as other agency- and community-level variables. Multi-level models were used to assess how these individual- and agency-level variables, including measures of diversification, affected job satisfaction and perceptions of fairness.


Diversification in agency leadership positions was found to improve perceptions of fairness among all officers, in addition to ameliorating some feelings of unfairness among African-American officers. Diversification of the sworn ranks, in comparison to the population of the community, however, was not found to significantly affect the outcome measures.

Research limitations/implications

The study only examined the effects of diversification on officer perceptions. Future studies that link measures of diversification to citizen perceptions are needed to understand how members of the public respond to the image and characteristics of sworn personnel in their communities.

Practical implications

The results indicate the importance of retention and promotion of more diverse leadership in police agencies.


This study is one of the first to assess the effects of diversification in such a large sample of agencies of all types and sizes throughout the USA.



The research reported here was conducted with the support of Grant Number 2008-DN-BX 0005, National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Findings and conclusions of the research reported here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the US Department of Justice.


Alderden, M., Farrell, A. and McCarty, W.P. (2017), "Effects of police agency diversification on officer attitudes", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 42-56.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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