Investing in People: Salary and Turnover in Policing

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2018


The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between voluntary and involuntary turnover and officers’ salaries. Using data from the 2013 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics survey, Poisson regression was used to test hypotheses about the effect of pay and other economic incentives on turnover, while controlling for previously identified influential organizational and community factors, such as crime, community disorganization, geographic region, policing philosophy, collective bargaining, the utilization of body-worn cameras, and workforce diversity.Higher salaries were significantly associated with lower voluntary and involuntary turnover rates. In addition, other economic incentives and participation in a defined benefits retirement plan were related to voluntary separations but not dismissals. Consistent with prior research, southern agencies and sheriff’s departments reported higher turnover rates than local police agencies and departments operating in other areas of the USA. The effects of workforce diversity were mixed, while collective bargaining was associated with lower rates of voluntary turnover, and the utilization of body-worn cameras was associated with higher rates. In addition to contributing to the theoretical literature on antecedents of turnover, this research has practical implications by helping law enforcement officials estimate how changes in the compensation structure affect their ability to retain qualified personnel. Due to the complexities of modern law enforcement, maintaining a strong and stable workforce is becoming a greater challenge, and more research is needed to understand which incentives are crucial in recruiting and retaining the most effective policing personnel.


This article was originally published in Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management 41, no. 1 (2018): 113-128.