Police Chief Turnover in Texas: An Exploratory Analysis of Peer-Evaluation Survey Data Pertinent to Police Performance and Turnover

Date01 December 2019
Published date01 December 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Police Chief Turnover
in Texas: An
Exploratory Analysis
of Peer-Evaluation
Survey Data Pertinent
to Police Performance
and Turnover
Yudu Li
and Ben Brown
Turnover of police chiefs is brisk, with the average tenure of a chief of police ranging
from 4 to 6 years, but few scholars have examined factors which may impact police
chief turnover. This study contributes to the literature on police chief turnover via
an examination of the impact that two forms of performance—leadership perfor-
mance and departmental performance—may have on police chief turnover. Analyzed
herein are peer-evaluation survey data and administrative data obtained from the
Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas and the Texas Commission of Law
Enforcement. Regression analyses of the data suggest that leadership and depart-
mental performance are associated with turnover, with leadership performance
having the larger impact. Time in office, being an external appointment/hire, and
having been hired by a city mayor also proved to significantly affect turnover. The
policy and personal life-choice implications of the data for police officials and policy
makers are discussed, as are the methodological implications.
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX, USA
Corresponding Author:
Yudu Li, Criminal Justice Department, ELABN 321, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, 1201 W
University Drive, Edinburg, TX 78539, USA.
Email: yudu.li@utrgv.edu
Police Quarterly
2019, Vol. 22(4) 391–415
!The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611119845664
law enforcement, police chief, leadership, turnover, performance
Police work is arduous. Under relentless public scrutiny, the police must con-
tend with a range of situations, inclusive of handling hostile and uncooperative
individuals while adhering to procedural standards which respect the constitu-
tional rights of the citizenry. Regardless of whether the situation involves an
automobile accident, a burglary, a lost child, a found child, a traff‌ic jam, a
prowler, a protest, or a parade, the police will be alerted and required to respond
(Fyfe, 2015; Manning, 1997; Remington, 1965). Handling such a motley array of
incidents (and the people involved) can be emotionally, psychologically, and
physically challenging. Further complicating matters, there are numerous orga-
nizational features of the job such as the rotating shifts, the modest income, and
the limited potential for career advancement which exacerbate the plight of
police personnel. All this takes a toll on the men and women who serve and
protect the public as evidenced by ample empirical studies which indicate police
off‌icers experience more than their fair share of a number of work-related ail-
ments such as depression, fatigue, hypertension, sleep disorders, stress, and
obesity (Amendola et al., 2011; Charles et al., 2007; Gershon, Barocas,
Canton, Li, & Vlahov, 2009; McWilliams & Hamilton, 2015; Vila, 2000; Vila,
Morrison, & Kenney, 2002; Waters & Ussery, 2007).
It is thus no surprise that employee turnover in police departments is a sig-
nif‌icant issue (Doerner, 1995; Koper, 2004; Wareham, Smith, & Lambert, 2015).
The high turnover rates within the criminal justice system are cause for concern
among criminal justice executives and public policy makers. A high turnover
rate may reduce employee morale, increase the workload on extant personnel,
and result in inadequate staff‌ing, all of which may negatively impact the quality
of service an agency can provide. Another problem is the limited productivity of
newly hired and inexperienced personnel (Kiekbusch, Price, & Theis, 2003;
Lambert, 2006; Orrick, 2005). Then there are the economic costs associated
with a high turnover rate, which are especially problematic for police depart-
ments. Recruitment efforts, screening and selecting new hires, and the provision
of academy and f‌ield training are not cheap. This is not to suggest that turnover
is inherently problematic, as any organization must be able to eliminate inade-
quately performing personnel, but the bottom line is that turnover within a
police department comes at a considerable cost to the agency (Evans,
Christopher, & Stoffel, 2000; Wareham, et al., 2015; Weisberg &
Kirschenbaum, 1991).
392 Police Quarterly 22(4)

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