Helms School of Government
Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice (PhD)
Defund the Police, COVID-19 Stress, Police Turnover, Occupational Strain
Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration
Duncan, Cullen Marshall, "A Perfect Storm: Exploring the Impact of the 2020 Sociopolitical Climate and COVID-19 on Police Attrition" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4778.
The spring and summer of 2020 created new challenges, related to strain, for the law enforcement profession. These challenges were precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the “defund the police movement.” The purpose of this study was three-fold: 1) to understand if the events of 2020 were responsible for increased police turnover, 2) to analyze retiree data pre- and post-spring of 2020, and 3) explore ways in which strain and turnover can be mitigated following critical events. The research design utilized in this study was a mixed method design. Bayesian modeling revealed support for the null hypotheses pertaining to the three research questions. The qualitative section utilized semi-structured interviews with ten participants from the Texas Fraternal Order of Police and the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas. NVivo 12 software was utilized to examine the transcribed data. Inductive reasoning was utilized as the method to identify patterns and themes in the participant data. Subsequently, nine themes were identified pertaining to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Defund the Police Movement on policing. These themes included the following: 1) Police officers feeling unappreciated and hated, 2) A perceived lack of support from upper management and community, and leaders’ actions being dictated by public opinion, 3) A lack of work-life balance and work role overload, 4) Low morale and lack of motivation, 5) Protests and distaste for the police, 6) Lack of fairness, 7) Changing stress levels, 8) Necessity to improve manpower and training, and 9) Importance of morale.