Shaping Citizen Perceptions Of Police Legitimacy: A Randomized Field Trial Of Procedural Justice
Mazerolle et al. (2012)
Studies show that when citizens perceive the police acting in a procedurally just manner—by treating people with dignity and respect, and by being fair and neutral in their actions—they view the police as legitimate and are more likely to comply with directives and cooperate with police. The study tests whether police can enhance perceptions of legitimacy during a short, police-initiated and procedurally just traffic encounter and how this single encounter shapes general views of police.
TREATMENT Officers assigned to a procedural justice condition were instructed to follow a script during regular traffic stops based on principles of procedural justice: citizen participation, dignity and respect, neutrality, and trustworthy motives. Subjects were asked to fill out a survey and mail it back to report their perceptions of police. CONTROL Control officers were told to follow a "business-as-usual" protocol during regular traffic stops.
1) Procedurally just traffic encounters with police (experimental condition) shape citizen views about the actual encounter directly and general orientations toward the police relative to business-as-usual traffic stops in the control group. 2) The theorized model is supported by this research, demonstrating that the police have much to gain from acting fairly during even short encounters with citizens.