Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 358–374 | Cite as

Role Conflict and the Psychological Impacts of the Post-Ferguson Period on Law Enforcement Motivation, Cynicism, and Apprehensiveness

  • Jose TorresEmail author
  • Timothy Reling
  • James Hawdon


In the wake of high-profile deadly force cases in the post-Ferguson era, a number of negative psychological outcomes have been depicted by law enforcement officers. We examine if negative post-Ferguson outcomes predict current cynicism, motivation, and apprehensiveness. Further, we account for whether role orientations, specifically support for a law enforcement orientation or a community policing orientation, mediate the psychological effects of the post-Ferguson period. Since the law enforcement orientation, exercised through strict enforcement of the law, has been called out of favor in the post-Ferguson area, supporting this role may negatively impact officers via role conflict. The opposite may be observed for those supporting a community policing orientation. We test these arguments using results from an online survey of law enforcement officers in the USA, administered 6 months following highly publicized incidents in Dallas and Baton Rouge where police were targeted and killed. Results showed that post-Ferguson psychological impacts continued to affect current levels of cynicism, motivation, and apprehensiveness. Support for law enforcement or community policing orientation did not mediate the effects of post-Ferguson sentiments. Nonetheless, role orientations played a significant role in predicting current cynicism, motivation, and apprehensiveness and provided support for the theory of role conflict.


Role conflict Community policing Police cynicism Police apprehensiveness Ferguson effect 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.Center for Peace Studies and Violence PreventionVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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