Understanding the Shift: A Grounded Theory Examination of Police Retirement as Role Exit


  • Patrick Parnaby University of Guelph
  • Crystal Weston University of Guelph


policing, retirement, role exit, social processes


Although we know a great deal about the process of becoming and being a police officer, we know comparatively little about how officers leave the police service at the end of their careers. Drawing primarily on 45 interviews with retired Ontario police officers and while using a grounded theory approach, we identify and examine four significant components of the police retirement process: (1) structural precipitates, (2) disengagement, (3) symbolic decoupling, and (4) retirement celebrations. Our findings demonstrate that police retirement is not merely a decision made at a given point in time, but rather a complex social process in its own right that speaks to the ongoing significance of role exit (Ebaugh, 1988) as a generic social process.

Author Biographies

Patrick Parnaby, University of Guelph

Assoicate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Crystal Weston, University of Guelph

PhD candidate.