Low Police-Public Social Distance as the Key to Recruiting

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9 Scopus citations


Police agencies have cited difficulty recruiting qualified candidates, especially minority and women applicants. This may be because minorities and women less often have friends who are police officers or know a police officer by name who they can call upon for assistance. The extent and nature of the association between the police and the public is one way to measure police-public social distance - the subjective perception of closeness or lack thereof the public feels with their police. Given the low public opinions of police among minority populations and negative media coverage resulting from police use of force incidents, low social distance may be one way police agencies can attract more women and minority applicants. This assertion was tested by surveying a sample of 533 university students in the fall of 2015. As a whole, respondents were more likely to report wanting to be a police officer when they had a police officer in the family or as a friend - with one exception. While having a family member or friend who is a police officer were not significantly related to women's desire to seek a career in policing, knowing a police officer by name reached significance. Men, especially non-Hispanic white men, also were more likely to report wanting to be a police officer. Proactive and targeted recruitment strategies that decrease social distance between the police and the public can help attract qualified women and minority candidates, thus contributing to the diversity of police agencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-190
Number of pages10
JournalPolicing (Oxford)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 18 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law


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