Policing the pandemic: frontline officers’ perspectives on organisational justice

Denise Martin*, Neil Leslie, William Graham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Much of the literature on the policing of the coronavirus pandemic reflects research that has been extra-organisationally focused, examining the prospective impact of the police approach to applying the public health legislation on relationships with the public and the potential impact on police legitimacy. Less research has been intra-organisationally focused; investigating the potential affect on police officers of policing during an extraordinary public health crisis, which has required them to navigate an ambiguous and constantly fluctuating legislative and policy landscape that has driven significant changes to internal working practices and operational procedures within their organisational environment. Using original empirical data from a small multi-method study within one Division of a United Kingdom police force, we examined the issue from an organisational justice perspective; exploring perceptions of intra-organisational fairness, and how these may have directly impacted upon the responses of frontline officers during the pandemic. We argue that in this period, both organisational processes and their resultant outcomes did not meet normative expectations, as they discriminated against officers with public-facing (frontline) roles. This directly impacted upon the officers’ experience of the ‘organisational climate’. The resulting sense of organisational injustice felt by frontline officers reduced their morale, impacted upon relationships with senior officers, and nurtured feelings that they were not being treated with respect, dignity and trust. We conclude by discussing the potential implications of the study for police organisations and their leaders, outlining opportunities for organisational learning and consider the need for the development of policy that complements notions of organisational justice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-41
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Police Science and Management
Issue number1
Early online date1 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Pandemic
  • Organisational justice
  • Organisational climate
  • Front line
  • Learning from crisis


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