Police Cadets’ Career Plans in China: Testing the Mediation and Moderation Effects of Job Satisfaction

Date01 June 2020
DOI10.1177/1098611119887811
Published date01 June 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Article
Police Cadets’ Career
Plans in China: Testing
the Mediation and
Moderation Effects
of Job Satisfaction
Bitna Kim
1
and Tao Xu
2
Abstract
In recent decades, police organizations have encountered difficulty in maintaining
employees; a large number of police officers are leaving the service early. Using data
collected from three police colleges in three different provinces in China, this study
examines the mechanism of cadets’ career plan or turnover intention. Specifically,
the test of a mediating mechanism in this study demonstrates the extent to which
satisfaction mediates the relationship between distal factors and career plans among
police cadets. Besides, the test of a moderating mechanism focuses on the possibility
that the predictors differ in the relationship with cadets’ career plans by the degree
of satisfaction. This study results found that satisfaction had no mediating effect.
Instead, results showed that police cadets’ satisfaction is a strong moderator in
the link between predictors and their career plans. Implications for recruitment,
training, and retention strategies, as well as avenues for future research, are then
discussed.
Keywords
police cadets, turnover mechanism, career plan, job satisfaction
1
Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, PA, USA
2
International School, Zhejiang Police College, Hangzhou, China
Corresponding Author:
Bitna Kim, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA
15705, USA.
Email: bitna.kim@iup.edu
Police Quarterly
2020, Vol. 23(2) 202–231
!The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions
DOI: 10.1177/1098611119887811
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Introduction
Voluntary turnover is a severe problem for many criminal justice agencies
around the world (Shim, Jo, & Hoover, 2015; Matz, Woo, & Kim, 2014).
While complete data nationwide is unavailable, journalists and scholars have
reported that the turnover of public security personnel is high in China (Nan,
2015; Scoggins & O’Brien, 2016). It is of particular importance due to the costs
associated with hiring and training new personnel and overtime for other staff to
cover the loss of workers (Swider, Boswell, & Zimmerman, 2011).
In recent decades, police organizations have encountered more diff‌iculty in
retaining off‌icers (Drew, Carless, & Thompson, 2008; Matz et al., 2014; Orrick,
2005). This is often pointed out by researchers studying Chinese police (Chen,
2018). A number of reasons including the heavy workload, low citizen cooper-
ation, a low level of job autonomy, and the lack of manpower in the police force
act in combination and inf‌luence police job attitudes in China (Chen, 2018;
Wang, 2014; Zhou, 2013). Scoggins and O’Brien’s (2016) interview with
Chinese police off‌icers revealed that police frustration appears in all ranks,
but especially among entry-level off‌icers. They concluded that police frustration
and grievances had not been reduced by f‌inancial reforms started in 2003,
designing to make counties contribute a higher percentage of their budget to
support public security operations.
Allisey, Noblet, Lamontagne, and Houdmont (2014) explain that “training
police off‌icers is an expensive, labor-intensive process and even relatively small
increases in turnover rates can be expensive” (p. 767). Other policing scholars
stress that even turnover intent, an individual off‌icer’s estimated probability that
they will leave an organization at some point in the near future, reduces the
overall effectiveness of an organization (Brough & Frame, 2004; M. Smith &
Brough, 2003).
The policing literature is replete with factors that seek to explain off‌icer
turnover intention. Researchers have contended that identifying the factors con-
tributing to turnover intention should be the f‌irst step to f‌ind ways to reduce
actual turnover levels and enhance retention rates within policing (Brough &
Frame, 2004; Maertz & Campion, 1998). While the majority of research has
scrutinized individual predictors of turnover intention, Brough and Frame
(2004) and, more recently, Allisey et al. (2014) have investigated the turnover
process with the factors inf‌luencing off‌icers’ turnover intentions. These research-
ers assumed that identifying the turnover mechanism and factors involved in the
mechanism benef‌its policing organizations by giving them the opportunity to
monitor distal factors before leading to turnover intentions and intervene during
the turnover process before employees commit to quitting. Brough and Frame
(2004) proposed a turnover process model that utilizes job satisfaction as a
mediating variable in the relationship between job characteristics and turnover
Kim and Xu 203

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