Trending Topics

Police1 asked: How satisfied are police officers with their careers?

Feedback from officers in Police1’s State of the Industry survey reveals widespread dissatisfaction, with many planning to leave their positions and hesitating to recommend law enforcement as a career choice

Sponsored by

These results should spur critical discussions about recruitment and retention, as well as the attractiveness of law enforcement careers.


Last month, we shared a WalletHub survey that ranked the best and worst states to be a police officer, evaluating states based on 30 metrics related to career opportunities, training and job hazards.

Following our post, Police1 readers highlighted that the survey lacked consideration of factors like community support, state legislation’s impact on policing and overall job satisfaction. Police1 columnist and retired Chief of Police Joel F. Shults, Ed.D., agreed with reader feedback, advising prospective officers to consider aspects beyond salary and bonuses that affect quality of life and personal fulfillment.

This aligns with findings from Police1’s second annual State of the Industry survey, which delved into morale, job satisfaction and leadership dynamics in law enforcement.

Three questions in the “What Cops Want” survey closely align with themes from the WalletHub survey and subsequent discussions, including:

  1. Do you have plans to move on from your current employer?
  2. What is your overall job satisfaction?
  3. How likely are you to recommend a career in law enforcement to others?

These metrics help gauge officers’ contentment and future career recommendations, directly impacting the recruitment and retention of officers, and informing discussions about the appeal of law enforcement careers.

The focus on finance in a recent survey on the best and worst places to be a cop doesn’t reflect the more complicated matrix officers face when deciding on a department to join or stay with

[Want a downloadable deep dive infographic that you can share to start discussions within your department? Click here to complete the “Access this Police1 Resource” box!]

What officers are saying

The “What Cops Want” survey results show that 44% of the respondents plan to leave their current law enforcement roles within the next five years.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 13% plan to leave within 0-12 months
  • 12% plan to leave within 1-2 years
  • 19% plan to leave within 3-5 years

This data highlights a significant portion of the workforce is considering transitions, which could affect operational effectiveness and highlights the need for improved recruitment and retention strategies.

Moreover, officers were asked to rank their job satisfaction on a scale of 1-10 (with the latter being the most satisfied). This is how they responded:

Screenshot 2024-04-29 100816.jpg

Many officers rated their satisfaction in the middle to high range, with the largest segments reporting scores of 7 (20%) and 8 (23%). Nonetheless, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the rating of 1 out of 10 (4%), as well as 10 out of 10 (4%).

These results should spur critical discussions about recruitment and retention, as well as the attractiveness of law enforcement careers. The findings prove that higher satisfaction levels are generally linked to better retention, whereas lower satisfaction may prompt officers to consider leaving, increasing recruitment needs to fill the gaps.

Download this in-depth analysis of Police1’s State of the Industry survey on the support officers need from their supervisors and leaders to perform at their peak

Finally, officers were asked how likely they would recommend a career in law enforcement to others (10 being extremely likely, and 1 being not at all likely). This is how they responded:

Screenshot 2024-04-29 100504.jpg

This lack of enthusiasm for recommending a law enforcement career is shown prominently in the lower scale ratings (1-5), underscoring challenges in the attractiveness and reputation of the policing profession. This could directly impact recruitment efforts, as potential candidates may be dissuaded by current officers’ lack of endorsement, while also influencing retention by reflecting broader job dissatisfaction within law enforcement.

Zoom in

Based on the feedback from officers who participated in the “What Cops Want” survey, here are five action items for police supervisors aiming to enhance job satisfaction and officer retention.

1. Strengthen recruitment messaging: Leaders should concentrate on enhancing the perception of law enforcement careers by actively addressing and countering negative stereotypes. This involves promoting the positive impacts of policing by sharing success stories, highlighting the impact on communities and emphasizing benefits beyond salary, such as camaraderie and the chance to make a meaningful difference. These efforts can help reshape the public’s view and attract potential recruits who are looking for a rewarding and impactful career.

2. Enhance job satisfaction: To address the root causes of low job satisfaction and high turnover, leaders must implement more robust support systems. This includes enhancing access to mental health resources, offering regular stress management workshops, and routinely checking in with officers to gauge their overall satisfaction and needs. These steps are crucial for creating an environment where officers feel valued and supported, enabling them to thrive both professionally and personally.

Readers debate the importance of factors beyond compensation, such as the impact of community support and state legislation on job satisfaction for police officers

3. Focus on career development: To encourage officers to pursue long-term careers, leaders should develop clear, accessible career paths and growth opportunities. This strategy should include transparent promotion criteria, ongoing professional education, and training opportunities that allow officers to advance and specialize in areas of interest. Additionally, implementing mentorship programs and leadership tracks can further motivate officers by providing guidance and clear objectives for career progression, ensuring they feel invested in and committed to their roles.

4. Invest in leadership training: To cultivate both current and future leaders, training programs should be implemented to equip officers to actively engage with their teams, providing mentorship and support that fosters a positive work environment. Additionally, training should emphasize the importance of transparency and accountability to build trust within the team and with the community they serve. This approach not only enhances leadership skills but also reinforces a culture of integrity and collaboration in law enforcement.

5. Expand community engagement efforts: Leaders should promote initiatives that involve officers in community events not merely as enforcers but as active participants and facilitators. This engagement helps forge stronger relationships and enhances the public image of law enforcement. Encouraging officers to take part in community service activities can also bridge gaps between the police and the communities they serve, fostering partnership and mutual respect.

FINAL - WCW Deep Dive Infographic - 2024  (3).jpg

[Want a downloadable deep dive infographic that you can share to start discussions within your department? Click here to complete the “Access this Police1 Resource” box!]

Zoom out

By adhering to these recommendations, police supervisors will not only improve the experience of current officers but also positively influence individuals considering a career in law enforcement. Here are three ways these action items can motivate and inspire both current and prospective officers:

1. Enhanced sense of purpose and community connection: This not only boosts morale among current officers but also presents law enforcement as a rewarding and impactful career choice to prospective officers. It shows that the role extends beyond enforcement to being an integral part of community improvement and safety.

2. Career advancement opportunities: This can significantly motivate both current and prospective officers. When they see a clear path for advancement and specialization, it not only encourages long-term commitment but also attracts individuals looking for a stable and progressive career.

3. Comprehensive support systems and training programs: This reassures current officers that their wellbeing is a priority and illustrates to potential recruits that the department values its officer’s health and professional growth. This can lead to higher retention rates and attract candidates who value support and personal wellbeing in their professional choices.

The bottom line

The findings from the WalletHub survey and feedback from the “What Cops Want” survey highlight deep-rooted concerns regarding job satisfaction, career attractiveness, and the broader implications for recruitment and retention in law enforcement.

The “What Cops Want” survey revealed a significant desire among officers to leave their current positions, as well as a general reluctance to recommend a career in law enforcement to others.

Leaders can address these critical concerns by implementing action plans focused on improving recruitment messaging, enhancing job satisfaction through support systems and leadership training, offering career development opportunities and expanding community engagement efforts.

By adhering to these recommendations, police leaders can ensure the profession not only meets the needs of its current officers but also becomes appealing to future generations. Without improvements in job satisfaction and the attractiveness of law enforcement careers, law enforcement will struggle to maintain a stable, skilled and committed workforce.


Sarah Calams, who previously served as associate editor of and, is the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Sarah delves deep into the people and issues that make up the public safety industry to bring insights and lessons learned to first responders everywhere.

Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in news/editorial journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Have a story idea you’d like to discuss? Send Sarah an email or reach out on LinkedIn.