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A longitudinal cohort mixed methods study of the impact of mental health on retention and turnover among early career police officers in South Carolina

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,000,000)

Police attrition poses a substantial challenge, with estimates indicating 69% of new recruits leave active duty within the first five years of employment. The impact of mental health on law enforcement officers’ intentions to leave the profession is an understudied yet important topic, especially in an era where law enforcement agencies are suffering from a turnover crisis. We propose a rigorous longitudinal mixed-methods study assessing how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), mental health conditions, and traumatic experiences on police turnover, among those who are entering South Carolina’s Criminal Justice Academy (SCCJA). The overall objective is to establish baseline measures of ACEs, mental health, trauma exposure, and moral foundations in police recruits entering the SCCJA, and then track this cohort over 4 years. Yearly surveys will be distributed to assess the current career perceptions, turnover intentions, and other outcomes. Qualitative data will provide context on factors influencing turnover or retention. South Carolina affords the unique ability to capture large numbers of new recruits, as the state mandates all law enforcement recruits complete basic training at the SCCJA. A comprehensive follow-up strategy will maximize longitudinal participation, even for those who leave policing. Study findings will inform criminal justice professionals through agency-focused technical reports, peer-reviewed manuscripts in high-impact criminology journals, and scientific presentations at academic and practitioner-based conferences. This proposal serves as a model for the national law enforcement staffing crisis and has the potential to create a paradigm shift in how agencies engage early career professionals to increase workforce sustainability. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 28, 2023