Why do street-level bureaucrats risk themselves for others? The case of Israeli police officers

Nissim Cohen, Niva Golan-Nadir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What factors influence police officers’ willingness to risk themselves for others? Police officers are street-level bureaucrats, who are not only given the mandate to use deadly force in order to keep public order but also risk their most important resource – their lives – to protect society. We suggest three factors that prompt police officers to risk their lives: individual characteristics (a desire to gain respect and recognition, and testing one's courage, ideology, and personality), organizational conditions (expectations of peers and supervisors, promotion opportunities), and environmental context (a hostile working environment and the importance of public opinion to them). Using an abductive approach combined with a triangulated qualitative method, our findings indicate that personal characteristics are indeed important, but so too are organizational conditions and environmental context. The practical insight, therefore, is that decision makers ‘can’, in various formal and informal ways, influence street-level bureaucrats’ behaviour. Here, the interactions among managers, workers, and clients are a crucial element.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)480-494
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Journal of Public Administration
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Institute of Public Administration Australia


  • Israel
  • discretion
  • life-risking
  • police
  • street-level bureaucrats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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