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Work engagement, burnout, and the motivation to serve among law enforcement officers during the COVID-19 pandemic and community protests in the USA

Journal Title Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice
Published Date November 15, 2022
Research Type
Authors Russell Hassan


In recent years, law enforcement officers in the USA have faced substantial new demands due to the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide community protests for racial justice and police reform. To understand the impacts of these new demands, this study investigates changes in officer work engagement and burnout over time and the role of public service motivation (PSM) in sustaining high work engagement and attenuating burnout. Using survey data collected in 2019 and 2021 from all officers working in a state-level police organization in the Midwest region of the USA, we find not only that officer work engagement has decreased and burnout has increased but also that PSM is an important predictor of officer work engagement. Contrary to our expectation, we also observe a positive relationship between PSM and burnout among frontline officers in 2019 and no evidence of a relationship in 2021. These findings confirm the adverse impacts of COVID-19 and community unrest on officer work engagement and burnout and suggest that PSM generally enhances officer work engagement but under certain conditions may also increase officer burnout.