Recent negatively publicized police-citizen interactions in the media, followed by a subsequent de-policing of police 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 rural 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 rural police agencies, as well as police officers’ perceptions of their own organizational justice. Organizational justice theory was utilized as the theoretical lens for this study. Research questions focused on exploring police officers’ perceptions, attitudes, and experiences of the Ferguson Effect phenomenon and willingness to partner with the community. Purposeful sampling was utilized and semi structured interviews were conducted of nine 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.


Ferguson Effect, Organizational Justice, Rural Policing, De-Police, Hermeneutic Phenomenology

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Joshua Adams is a 16-year scholar-practitioner in the field of criminal justice and currently an adjunct faculty member for Liberty University, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate level criminal justice and homeland security courses. His research interests include policing in the social media era, de-policing, police leadership, and crime scene investigation. Dr. Adams has recently published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Liberty University. Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed directly to: jladams5@liberty.edu.


I would like to thank the brave participants who shared a part of themselves with me for the sake of inquiry. I would like to thank the Sheriff and Police Chief who agreed to cooperate in this study. I would also like to thank the peer-reviewers who provided their valuable feedback, which made this study better.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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