In recent years research has made significant strides in understanding the manner in which procedural fairness practices can enhance the work of police forces by raising compliance levels. Numerous police forces have implemented procedural fairness based policies and practices. This body of research and experience has clear relevance to courts and judges. First, public perceptions of police fairness influence their perceptions about the entire legal system. Second, judges and courts can learn lessons from the experience of police departments that can be applied to the court setting. The articles and presentations below highlight how procedural justice can increase adherence to the law.
New research on procedural fairness in policing can be found in our Quarterly Research Report.
Beyond the Law: An Agenda for Policing Reform
Megan Quattlebaum & Tom Tyler, Boston University Law Review (2020)
Legal discussions about how best to manage the use of force by the police have focused on possible changes in the legal standards through which the police are held accountable for their actions—standards established in Graham v. Connor. We argue that such changes are unlikely to change police conduct in desirable ways. We propose four approaches for possible reorganizations of the police. The goal of the first two approaches—exiting the social welfare field and collaboration with nonpolicing agencies—is to limit police actions to those situations in which their willingness and ability to compel obedience via force is appropriate. The other two approaches—specialization and civilianization—aim to diversify the skill set of police so that some members of the department are trained, equipped, and able to be deployed to deal with the variety of problems that can be better handled through a “social welfare” skill set.
Procedural justice training reduces police use of force and complaints against officers
George Wood, Tom Tyler, & Andrew Papachristos, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2020)
Police misconduct and use of force have come under increasing scrutiny and public attention. The procedural justice model of policing, which emphasizes transparency, explaining policing actions, and responding to community concerns, has been identified as a strategy for decreasing the number of interactions in which civilians experience disrespectful treatment or the unjustified use of force. This paper evaluates whether a large-scale implementation of procedural justice training in the Chicago Police Department reduced complaints against police and the use of force against civilians. By showing that training reduced complaints and the use of force, this research indicates that officer retraining in procedural justice is a viable strategy for decreasing harmful policing practices and building popular legitimacy.
Principles of Procedurally Just Policing
Megan Quattlebaum, Tracey Meares, & Tom Tyler, The Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School (January 2018)
Principles of Procedurally Just Policing translates the empirical evidence gleaned from research into a set of ideal goals and actionable policies that police departments can implement. Three key areas of policymaking for departments that Principles addresses are: 1) transparency and public engagement between law enforcement and communities; 2) procedural justice within the internal hierarchy of police departments; and 3) unique challenges in exchanges between police and community groups that experience significant contact with law enforcement, including minority groups, young people, immigrants, and LGBTQIA individuals. The 41 principles are intended for policymakers and police executives to adapt existing police department general orders. These policies elaborate policing practices that give members of the public a voice and make decisions in fair and neutral ways.
Assessing Police Performance in Citizen Encounters: Police Legitimacy and Citizen Accountability
Robert Worden & Sarah McLean (December 2014)
This report captures citizen perceptions of procedural fairness in police interactions in Syracuse and Schnectady, New York. The authors then discuss the effect of the perceptions on the management of the respective police forces. Of particular note is the study's ability to pair citizen perceptions (measured by survey) and information from dash-mounted police cameras. This allows for novel analysis of "subjective experience in terms of independent police behavior."
Corruption and Police Legitimacy in Lahore, Pakistan
Jonathan Jackson, Muhammad Asif, Ben Bradford, & Muhammad Zakria Zakar, Working Paper (April 2014)
Police legitimacy is an important topic of criminological research, yet it has received only sporadic study in societies where there is widespread police corruption, where the position of the police is less secure, and where social order is more tenuous. Drawing on data from a probability sample survey of adults in Lahore, Pakistan, we examine the empirical links between the experience of police corruption, perceptions of the fairness and effectiveness of the police, and beliefs about the legitimacy of the police. In a context in which minimal effectiveness and integrity is still to be established, we find that police legitimacy rests not just on procedural justice but also the demonstrated ability to control crime and act ethically.
Procedural Justice, Police Legitimacy, and Legal Cynicism: A Test for Mediation Effects
Jacinta M. Gau, POLICE PRAC. & RES. (forthcoming 2014)
The procedural justice theory of police legitimacy has yet to fully consider the potential impacts of legal cynicism. The present study tests the hypothesis that cynicism mediates the justice–legitimacy relationship. Results of structural equation models support partial mediation. Procedural justice significantly reduced cynicism, while declines in cynicism promoted legitimacy. Cynicism should be incorporated into the theory of procedural justice and related empirical tests. Implications for police policy include the important role that process-based fairness plays in helping promote positive attitudes not merely toward police but toward society in general.
Procedural Justice and Legitimacy in Policing
Lorraine Mazerolle, Elise Sargent, Adrian Cherney, Sarah Bennett, Kristina Murphy, Emma Antrobus, & Peter Martin, SPRINGER BRIEFS IN CRIMINOLOGY (2014)
This brief focuses on the “doing” of procedural justice: what the police can do to implement the principles of procedural justice, and how their actions can improve citizen perceptions of police legitimacy. Drawing on research from Australia (Mazerolle et al), the UK (Stanko, Bradford, Jackson etc al), the US (Tyler, Reisig, Weisburd), Israel (Jonathon-Zamir et al), Trinidad & Tobago (Kochel et al) and Ghana (Tankebe), the authors examine the practical ways that the police can approach engagement with citizens across a range of different types of interventions to embrace the principles of procedural justice, including problem-oriented policing, patrol, restorative justice, reassurance policing, and community policing. Through these examples, the authors also examine some of the barriers for implementing procedurally just ways of interacting with citizens, and offer practical suggestions for reform. This work will be of interest for researchers in criminology and criminal justice focused on policing as well as policymakers.
Victim Willingness to Report Crime to Police: Does Procedural Justice or Outcome Matter Most?
Kristina Murphy & Julie Barkworth, 9 VICTIMS & OFFENDERS 178 (2014)
Research has shown that procedural justice is an important predictor of victims’ satisfaction with the criminal justice system. What remains relatively unclear, however, is whether procedural justice is more important to victims than other instrumental factors, such as the outcome favorability of their encounters with police. Some studies find that victims are more satisfied with the criminal justice system when they have received a favorable outcome, while others show that procedural justice elements dominate their concerns. To date, only three studies have investigated this issue in the context of victims’ willingness to cooperate with the police. Again, however, the results have been inconclusive. The present study utilizes survey data collected from a representative sample of 1,204 Australians to show that the effect of procedural justice on victims’ willingness to report crime to police is context specific. For some victim types, procedural justice is more important, while for other victim types, instrumental factors dominate their decision to report crime.
Officers as Mirrors: Policing, Procedural Justice and the (Re)production of Social Identity
Ben Bradford, K. Murphy, & Jonathan Jackson, BRIT. J. CRIMINOLOGY (forthcoming 2014)
People’s encounters with the criminal justice system can powerfully shape both their sense of self and their sense of belonging. In this paper we focus on the effect experiences of policing may have on people’s identities. A representative panel survey of Australians provides the most convincing evidence yet that social identity (here, identifying oneself as a ‘law-abiding Australian’) is an important mechanism linking procedural justice to police legitimacy. When people feel fairly treated, their sense of identification with the group the police represent seems to be enhanced, strengthening police legitimacy as a result; but unfair treatment, which indicates to people that they do not belong, may undermine such identification and damage police legitimacy.
Policing and Social Identity: Procedural Justice, Inclusion and Cooperation Between Police and Public
Ben Bradford, 24 POLICING AND SOC'Y 22 (2014)
Accounts of the social meaning of policing and of the relationship between police and citizen converge on the idea that police behaviour carries important identity-relevant information. Opinions of and ideas about the police are implicated in the formation of social identities that relate to the social groups it represents – nation, state and community. Procedural justice theory suggests that judgements about the fairness of the police will be the most important factor in such processes. Fairness promotes a sense of inclusion and value, while unfairness communicates denigration and exclusion. Furthermore, positive social identities in relation to the police should on this account promote cooperation with it. This article presents an empirical test of these ideas in the context of the British policing. Data from a survey of young Londoners are used to show that perceptions of police fairness are indeed associated with social identity, and in turn social identity can be linked to cooperation. Yet these relationships were much stronger among those with multiple national identities. Police behaviour appeared more identity relevant for people who felt that they were citizens of a non-UK country, but for those who identified only as British there was a weaker link between procedural fairness and social identity, and here legitimacy judgements were the main ‘drivers’ of cooperation. Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.
Why Do "The Law" Comply? Procedural Justice, Group Identification and Officer Motivation in Police Organizations
Ben Bradford, Paul Quinton, Andy Myhill, & Gillian Porter, 11 EUR. J. CRIMINOLOGY (2014)
How can police officers be encouraged to commit to changing organizational and personal practice? In this paper we test organizational justice theories that suggest that fair processes and procedures enhance rule compliance and commitment to the organization and its goals. We pay particular attention to (a) tensions between the role of group identity in organizational justice models and classic concerns about ‘cop culture’; and (b) the danger of over-identification with the organization and the counterproductive types of compliance this may engender. Results suggest that organizational justice enhances identification with the police organization, encourages officers to take on new roles, increases positive views of community policing, and is associated with greater self-reported compliance. Identification with the organization has generally positive implications; however, there is some danger that process fairness may encourage unthinking compliance with orders and instructions.
The Paradox of American Policing: Performance Without Legitimacy COPS Newsletter
Professor Tom Tyler, Yale Law School
Legitimacy and Policing: The Benefits of Self-Regulation Beto Lecture Series Video Presentation
Professor Tom Tyler, Yale Law School
Professor Tyler argues that a change should be made in the evaluation of police, drawing on the psychology of legitimacy, which is rooted procedural justice. Adhering to the tenets of procedural fairness increases the perceived legitimacy of police in the community, which has several benefits, including increased and continued adherence to laws and orders over time.
Trust in justice and the legitimacy of legal authorities: Topline findings from a European comparative study
Mike Hough, Jonathan Jackson and Ben Bradford (October 2012) and
Legitimacy, Trust and Compliance: An Empirical Test of Procedural Justice Theory using the European Social Survey
Hough, M., Jackson, J., and Bradford, B. (2013 forthcoming) in Legitimacy and Criminal Justice: An International Exploration, Yale University Press
These related works present and discuss findings of an empirical test of procedural justice theory using the European Social Survey. Attention is given to the background and political context of procedural justice theory. Particularly, the authors examine the policing results from the survey. Policy implications surrounding the findings are addressed in the pieces.
Police Legitimacy in Action: Lessons for Theory and Policy (abstract only)
Ben Bradford, Jonathan Jackson, & Mike Hough (March 2013)
From abstract, "This essay considers the nature and importance of legitimacy in the context of policing policy and practice. On what basis is police legitimacy established, maintained and undermined? What are the implications of the extant body of empirical evidence for policing policy and practice? We concentrate on Tyler’s procedural justice model, but also other social processes that seem to shape or influence people’s legitimating beliefs and actions. In doing so, we outline some as yet unanswered theoretical, as well as policy-oriented, questions."
Procedural Justice, July 2011 Podcast and Transcript
Jeremy Writt, of COPS office, & Charlene Moe, senior program specialist, University of Illinois Center for Public Safety and Justice
This podcast answers the question "why is procedural justice important?" The ensuing conversation centers on the effect procedural justice can have on law abiding and law enforcement in a community. The enhancement of law enforcement through procedural justice ensures that the community as a whole will become more law abiding.
Procedural Justice Concepts in Arlington, Texas PowerPoint Presentation
Theron L. Bowman, Ph.D., Police Chief, Arlington Police Department
Chief Bowman's outline of procedural fairness applications gives an overview of concrete actions a police department can take to advance law abiding in the community and the standing of the department in the eyes of its employees and the community.
Procedural Justice for Law Enforcement Agencies PowerPoint Presentation
Laura L. Kunard, Ph.D., University of Illinois, Center for Public Safety and JusticeDr. Kunard's presentation is geared towards offering local law enforcement officers practical tips and examples of procedural fairness principles. These tips and examples are aimed towards promoting officers' understanding of how following appropriate procedural justice principles can help them in the performance of their law enforcement duties.
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Professor Meares highlights the differences between deterrence-based and legitimacy-based law enforcement policies. The benefits of legitimacy-based policies include compliance that is more pervasive, longer lasting, and more cost effective to implement.
Procedural Fairness in Antitrust Investigations Speech
Christine A. Varney, Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice
Assistant Attorney General Varney's speech provides a detailed look at procedural justice as practiced at the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. The introduction and application of procedural justice practice has allowed the Antitrust Division to make gains in enforcement and conviction.
Why do People Comply with the Law? Legitimacy and Influence of Legal InstitutionsJonathan Jackson et al., 2012
This article analyzes data from England and Wales, concluding that a "moral alignment between the citizens and the police is as least as important in explaining variation in compliance as...obligation to obey the police." Jackson et el. proceed to develop a model where a population consents to policing not only because they have a legal obligation, but also because they view the police as "operating within an appropriate ethical framework." this model is another example of how operating with principles of procedural fairness can lead to increasing the legitimacy of police.
Understanding Minority Group Willingness to Cooperate with Police: Taking Another Look at Legitimacy
Kristina Murphy & Adrian Cherney, Alfred Deakin Research Institute (2010)
This article argues that, although in most cases procedural justice can be used effectively by the police to both increase public cooperation and institutional legitimacy, in some instances procedural justice can be ineffective. Particularly when dealing with groups that have a distrust of the police because of negative previous experiences, "procedural justice may be counterproductive because of the levels of distrust towards themotives of the police." In these cases, there is a "recipe for poor relationships and social distancing that makes it difficult for authorities to build legitimacy and secure cooperation." One explanation that Murphy and Cherney offer is that these groups may feel that they are denied "some level of input into processes that affect them."
Contact and Confidence: Revisiting the Impact of Public Encounters With the Police
Ben Bradford, Jonathon Jackson, & Elizabeth Stanko, London School of Economics (2009)
This article summarizes data from the British Crime Survey, the primary tool used to capture public confidence in the police in Britain. The study finds that 1) a drop in public confidence is correlated with a growing dissatisfaction with personal contact, and 2) increased visibility of and information about police activity is associated with higher confidence. The authors then argue that that procedural justice and increased communication will help restore public confidence in the police.
The Legitimacy of Police Among Young African-American Men
Tracey Meares, Yale Law School (2009)
Tyler and Fagan demonstrate, through a very clever research design that allows them to determine causal connections between the experiences that people have with the police and their later judgments of police legitimacy, that positive experiences do indeed lead to positive evaluations of police legitimacy at a later date. Importantly, their findings hold even when the relevant experience the respondent had with the police led to a negative outcome.
Legitimacy and Cooperation: Why Do People Help the Police Fight Crime in Their Communities?
Tom Tyler & Jeffrey Fagan, 6 Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 231 (2008)
Drawing on data from a survey of New York City residents, Professors Tyler and Fagan show that personal experience with procedural justice in an interaction with the police increased residents' views of police legitimacy. Legitimacy, in turn, increased the likelihood that residents would cooperate with police.
The Effects of Trust in Authority and Procedural Fairness on Cooperation (link to paid article)
David de Cremer & Tom Tyler, 92 Journal of Applied Psychology 639 (2007)
Contrary to a 1998 study by Van den Bos et al., Cremer and Tyler found that, when trust in authority is high, procedural fairness has a strong effect on cooperation with police. When trust in authority is low, the correlation between procedural fairness and cooperation disappears. "[P]rocedural fairness did not reveal any effect when trust in the authority was low." Cremer and Tyler conclude that one practical implication of their study is that "people are willing to reciprocate the kind behavior of a fair enacting authority by displaying willingness to support and cooperate with that authority."
Attention Felons: Evaluating Project Safe Neighborhoods in Chicago
Andrew Papachristos, Tracey Meares, & Jeffrey Fagan, Journal of Empirical Legal Studies (2007)
This study analyzes the effects of several different aspects of the Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN) initiatives in Chicago. Of the several variables the study looks at, offender notification meetings had the greatest effect on neighborhood-level crime rates. The offender notification meetings stress that offenders have a choice and help to make sure they understand the consequences of that choice: reoffending means they will go to jail. This feature of the PSN initiative highlights principles of procedural justice, and is an example of their practical effectiveness.
The Role of Procedural Justice and Legitimacy in Shaping Public Support for Policing
Jason Sunshine & Tom Tyler, 37 Law and Society Review 513 (2003)
Professors Sunshine and Tyler use data from New York City residents to examine several aspects of police legitimacy and procedural fairness. After comparing procedural fairness to other factors such as the police performance and the distribution of police services, they conclude that "the key antecedent of legitimacy is the fairness of the procedures used by the police." Legitimacy, in turn, impacted peoples' compliance with the law. "[N]o other independent variable measured had such a sweeping influence on police/community relations [as did legitimacy.]"