Cops and COVID: an examination of California officers' perceptions and experiences while policing during a pandemic

John Shjarback, Obed Magny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Using online survey data from a sample of 440 police officers in California throughout May 2020, the current study collected time-sensitive information on officers' perceptions and departmental experiences in the wake of the pandemic. It examined officers' perceptions of agency responsivity as well as their perceptions of morale, stress and risk following agency responses and changes in policy patterns, service delivery innovations and other administrative challenges. Design/methodology/approach: COVID-19 had a tremendous impact on the law enforcement community, who continued to work and adapt in order to provide public safety. During the first few months of the pandemic, a number of national data collection efforts set out to understand what police agencies, at the organizational-level, were doing to address the crisis. Largely missing from these initial discussions were the perspectives of individual officers, particularly how they felt about their respective departments ensuring safety and balancing risk. Findings: Results from ordinary least squares (OLS) regressions found that the number of departmental changes made in the wake of COVID-19 that reduced police–public contact was associated with (1) increased levels of perceived agency responsivity to officer needs (i.e. balancing officer safety, taking active steps to maintain officers' mental health) and (2) reduced levels of perceived negative outlook (e.g. stress, low morale, danger/risk). Policy implications and the importance of police executives' decisions during crisis are discussed. Originality/value: This study is one of the first, to the authors’ knowledge, to examine perceptions of policing during the pandemic from an individual officer point of view rather than an organizational standpoint.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-74
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 8 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Public Administration
  • Law


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