Purpose: The present research aims to study the correlations among organizational climate, academic satisfaction and organizational commitment as factors that influence happiness at work by applying a structural equation model to Spanish National Police cadets. Design/methodology/approach: A descriptive, quantitative, correlational, exploratory and cross-sectional empirical study was carried out. A measurement instrument was applied to a target population of 397 student-inspectors enrolled for the 2018–2020 academic year on the executive scale at the National Police School (EPN) in Spain. A sample of 190 surveys was obtained, of which 33 were open competition, 52 were competitive examinations and 105 were selective seniority. Findings: Structural equation modeling shows that academic satisfaction, organizational climate and practical organizational commitment are recommended variables for assessing happiness within organizations. On the other hand, there is a bit of a positive relationship between happiness and practical organizational commitment. The same is not true for the parameters of academic satisfaction and organizational climate. Originality/value: This study fills a gap in the literature on the analysis of governance models in public administration. This is particularly relevant in professions that require a high degree of engagement with citizens, such as police officers. According to the authors’ knowledge, this study is one of the first works to analyze corporate governance in police cadet schools in Spain under the happiness management approach. It contributes by offering a better understanding of the psychosocial variables that affect the existence of good governance. © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited.