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Northeastern Receives Grant from National Institute of Justice to Study Careers of Police Officers

Two Northeastern University researchers have beenchosen to lead a major component of a $1.9 million federal grantto study police officers’ careers. Jack McDevitt, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Graduate and Research at Northeastern’s College of Criminal Justice and director of the Institute on Race and Justice, and Amy Farrell, Ph.D., assistant professor for the College of Criminal Justice, will play a fundamental role in the National Police Platform Project, whichwill measure the careers of new officers and supervisors during a three-year pilot study in three major cities and several smaller communities across the country.

This grant, one of the largest given to policing research in recent years, is being funded bythe National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in Washington, D.C.The University of Illinois and the University of Southern Florida will also lead major components of the project, and more than 50 police departments across the country will take part.

The Boston Police Department Commissioner, Edward Davis, will work with the Northeastern University research team on this project.

Set to begin in early 2009, this study will include interviewing new recruits and supervisors about their career goals and what they expect from their job prior to their start date. Follow-up interviews will be done every six months following for a period of three years. After this pilot study, it is expected that this data collection will continue every six months over the entire career of recruits and supervisors. The interviews will be anonymous and will be conducted online.

The data collected will then be analyzed to identify trends and the career paths of new officers and supervisors during their first three years in service.

“In the past, police officers saw being an officer as their only job,” said McDevitt. “Now, agencies are seeing officers depart the force to join another agency or go into a completely new field after just a few years, and we want to understand how these changes are affecting the profession.”

Because many of today’s police departments are dealing with crime that is generated outside of their areas of jurisdiction (e.g. cyber crime), they are looking at current recruitment methods to see if they can attract people with different areas of expertise.

“We need to be able to measure how these officers progress during their time on the police force,” added McDevitt. “If we can understand what they are looking to get out of being a police officer, we can identify ways for police agencies to respond that may help officers obtain those personal goals.”

After this initial phase of the study, the NIJ hopes to expand this research to include data from 1,000 police departments nationwide.

For more information about this research project, please contact Jenny Eriksen at (617) 373-2802 or via email at

Patrol car photo © iStock Photo

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