Prior research has found equity theory explains employee responses to falling wages in relation to other comparable workers. The present research attempts to contribute to the criminal justice literature by directly testing equity theory within the policing context, something no study has done to date. Applied to policing, equity theory predicts sworn officers employed by departments with falling or inequitable salaries (i.e., their salaries fail to keep up with those at other regional agencies) will reduce their work input (i.e., discretionary arrests) and/or quit in higher numbers than before (i.e., increase attrition). The present study also attempts to quantify how far officer salaries can fall behind the mean regional police pay before a municipal agency experiences negative outcomes. The research questions are examined using data from Criminal Justice Agency Profile (CJAP) Reports from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), with historical salary and attrition data for 122 municipal law enforcement agencies in Florida from 2001-2011, and Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Part II Arrest Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for the same time period. A time-series cross-sectional (TSCS) analysis is conducted over 11 annual data points. This study attempts to bring an additional theory into the fold of the policing literature by testing it against a large, law enforcement specific data set. This is in part an effort to answer the call for what has been described as a need for more theory in the criminal justice and policing literature (Cooper & Worrall, 2012; Mears, 2010). It should also enable police administrators to gauge, relative to regional competitor salaries, at what point to anticipate negative consequences from the underpaid condition of police officers working at their municipal police agencies. The findings suggest Florida municipal police officers do not reduce their work inputs, as measured by UCR Part II arrests, but do quit their jobs in larger numbers in response to stagnant or falling salaries as predicted by equity theory. Policy implications include a better understanding by police administrators as to what they can expect and prepare for when municipal police officers' salaries become stagnant or fall as compared to pay at other regional law enforcement agencies.


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Graduation Date





Gau, Jacinta


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Health and Public Affairs

Degree Program

Public Affairs; Criminal Justice









Release Date


Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)