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 j.​eriksen@​neu.​edu.

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