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Job dangers and attitudes toward police don't dissuade recruits seeking law enforcement career

Denton Record-Chronicle
Researchers at the University of North Texas at Dallas explored how recruits pursuing a career in law enforcement feel about job dangers, injury, death and possibility of losing their job.

What motivates urban-area police recruits to pursue a career in law enforcement?

Researchers at the University of North Texas at Dallas decided to find out. They surveyed 171 police recruits ages 22 to 30 at an urban police academy.

The researchers asked about modern negativity and criticism towards law enforcement.

The team also explored the primary motivations to pursue a law enforcement career in a large, metropolitan area — beyond traditional motivations, like protecting communities and the reward of justice.

Dr. Roberto Gallardo recently shared the findings with Dallas County's Criminal Justice Advisory Board.

The team learned how recruits feel about job dangers, like injury, death and losing the job.

When asked about current feelings toward law enforcement and policing reform, most said it didn't change their minds about becoming a police officer.

They said social climate criticism would pass and that reform is unnecessary.

White recruits were significantly less fearful than Black and Hispanic recruits of getting injured on the job.

Black and Hispanic urban police recruits were mostly motivated by pay and promotions.
Hispanic recruits feared dying and reputation damage more than Black recruits.

Despite those fears, Dr. Gallardo says they pursue law enforcement anyway.

Researchers at UNT Dallas also include Aaron Bartula, Eric Coleman, Sean Hubbard and Paul Reynolds.

Got a tip? Email Marina Trahan Martinez at You can follow Marina at @HisGirlHildy.

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Marina Trahan Martinez is KERA's Dallas County government accountability reporter. She's a veteran journalist who has worked in the Dallas area for many years. Prior to coming to KERA, she was on The Dallas Morning News Watchdog investigative and accountability team with Dave Lieber. She has written for The New York Times since 2001, following the 9/11 attacks. Many of her stories for The Times focused on social justice and law enforcement, including Botham Jean's murder by a Dallas police officer and her subsequent trial, Atatiana Jefferson's shooting death by a Fort Worth police officer, and protests following George Floyd's murder. Marina was part of The News team that a Pulitzer finalist for coverage of the deadly ambush of Dallas police officers in 2016.