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Occupational stress and attitudes toward misconduct in law enforcement: The moderating role of organizational justice

NCJ Number
Police Practice and Research Dated: June 2021
Spencer G. Lawson ; Scott E. Wolfe ; Jeff Rojek ; Geoffrey P. Alpert
Date Published
June 2021

This study used survey data from a sample of 437 police officers serving in eight California agencies to examine the role of organizational justice and workload stressor on officers’ beliefs in noble-cause corruption (e.g., an end justifies the means attitude).


Occupational stress influences many aspects of policing and can contribute to unacceptable attitudes and behaviors among law enforcement officers. Specifically, officers with greater workload stressors may be more likely to hold attitudes favorable toward police misconduct. Yet, the current study predicted that organizational justice may inhibit the effect of such stressors on attitudes toward misconduct. The current study found that officers who viewed their workload as taxing held stronger attitudes favorable toward noble-cause corruption (OR = 1.23, 95 percent CI [1.03, 1.46], p = .019). Furthermore, organizational justice moderated the effect of workload stressor on noble-cause corruption beliefs (OR = 0.75, 95 percent CI [0.57, 1.00], p = .049), such that workload had a weaker relationship with noble-cause corruption beliefs among officers who believed their command staff was organizationally fair. In the end, perceptions of fair supervisory treatment helped buffer police officers from the negative consequences of an overburdened workload. From a practical standpoint, the results underscore the importance of police managers incorporating organizational justice into their managerial practices; however, whether police managers can be trained on the use of organizational justice remains open to empirical scrutiny. (publisher abstract modified)