Police-related social media exposure and adolescents’ interest in becoming a police officer

Allison R. Cross, Adam D. Fine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Police departments are becoming increasingly homogenous as they struggle to recruit demographically diverse officers with desirable characteristics. Youths’ exposure to police brutality on social media may decrease their perceptions of police and interest in policing careers. Despite adolescents being the future pool of police applicants, social media’s relation to adolescents’ perceptions of police is understudied. Utilizing a stratified sampling approach to approximate representation of the U.S., this study analyzed how youths’ exposure to police content on social media was related to trust in the police and interest in police careers. The findings indicated that the more youth were exposed to negative social media on policing, the poorer they viewed police legitimacy, and the less they were willing to enter policing. Police legitimacy partially mediated the relation between adolescents’ exposure to social media content about police and their interest in policing careers. Implications for research, policy, and police behavior are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPolice Practice and Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • adolescents
  • police legitimacy
  • police recruitment
  • procedural justice
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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