Date of Conferral





Criminal Justice


Howard M. Henderson


Recent negatively publicized police-citizen interactions in the media, followed by a subsequent rise in crime rates in the United States, has been named the Ferguson Effect. The Ferguson Effect has been explored by prominent scholars in the criminal justice community; however, little is known about how police officers in small police agencies perceive the Ferguson Effect. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the perceptions and lived experiences of police officers regarding the Ferguson Effect in small police agencies, as well as police officers' perceptions of their own organizational justice. The theoretical framework for this study was Greenberg's theory of organizational justice. Research questions focused on exploring police officers' perceptions, attitudes, and experiences of the Ferguson Effect phenomenon and willingness to partner with the community. A qualitative phenomenological study design was employed, using purposeful random sampling and semistructured interviews of 9 active sworn law enforcement personnel in southcentral Virginia. Data were analyzed through In Vivo coding, pattern coding, and structural analysis utilizing NVivo 11 Pro. Themes included: (a) racial division, (b) rush to judgment, and (c) steadfast leadership. Findings indicated participants demanded clear and fair policies and procedures from leadership, increased effort of transparency in policing, feelings of racial tension, and the need to regain community trust post-Ferguson. Implications for social change include refinement and development of leadership training for police leadership and refinement in organizational policies that support fairness, community engagement, and community interaction.