Law enforcement recruitment: the social, economic, and political considerations for police officer recruitment programs

Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Derek J. Paulsen

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Second Advisor

Victor E. Kappeler

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Third Advisor

Robin Haarr

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


Policing in the post-modern era creates many challenges for public administrators. Public organization leaders and police agency executives struggle with constant budget constraints, mounting expectations in law enforcement mandates, personnel management conflicts, and modem socially engineered perceptions on police legitimacy. Despite these obstacles, citizen's demands for quality police services, in the most cost efficient manner possible, remain one of the top priorities for leaders in the public arena.

One significant aspect of the problems emerging in law enforcement organizations pertains to the continued reduction in the number of eligible police recruits over the past few decades (Axtman, K, 2006; Taylor, Kubu, Fridell, Rees, Jordan, & Cheney, 2005; Rand Corporation, 2005). The research conducted during this study focused on the perceived police recruitment crisis facing law enforcement organizations. The study analyzed career perceptions and attitudes of college students. The researcher administered career perception surveys and conducted a focus group interview with a random sample derived from public and private college institutions. The researcher then organized the collected data into three distinctive categories labeled as social, economic, and political decision factors to help identify the motivational factors driving the student's career choices.

The social, economic, and poljtical analysis lens also provided opportunity to analyze the motivation behind law enforcement career decisions. By succinctly defining the recruitment problem, the research will help scholars and practitioners further an understanding of the perceptions and the motivations held by prospective law enforcement candidates. Although the research focused on career attitudes and beliefs prevalent in the western Kentucky region, the findings create a starting point to understand previous recruitment research implications for local law enforcement, develop improved recruitment strategies, and identify areas for future research. Analysis of the data findings will provide avenues for future researchers to field test the produced implications in selection initiatives or additional hiring research. Research on these areas should focus on how police and community interactions influence building these perceptions and if these factors contribute to the decline in the success of police officer recruitment initiatives.


If you are the copyright holder of this thesis and would like to make your research open access, please contact the Encompass administrator (linda.sizemore@eku.edu) for more information.

This document is currently not available here.