Looking Up: Explaining Police Promotional Aspirations

Jacinta M. Gau, William Terrill, Eugene A. Paoline

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Organizations benefit when employees are motivated and aspiring. Within policing, this is especially important given contemporary philosophies asking officers to take ownership and be proactive. A desire to ascend through the police ranks may inspire greater engagement in the police role. Extant research has noted that promotional aspirations vary among police officers, but unknown at this point are the factors that shape this variation. The current study helps fill this void by analyzing multiple-agency data assessing the impact of demographic, work environment, and organizational factors on patrol officers' aspirations. The focus is on the importance officers place on being promoted to a higher rank (i.e., valence), as well as their long-term aspirations in terms of projected rank at retirement. The findings reveal that the most consistent predictors are gender, race, education, and experience; job satisfaction; and organizational size. The implications of these findings for police research and practice are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-269
Number of pages23
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • background characteristics
  • organizational characteristics
  • police
  • promotional aspirations
  • work environment perceptions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology(all)
  • Law


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