Dr. Jacinta M. Gau, Dilemmas in Procedural Justice

Dilemmas in Procedural Justice:
Reconciling Police Training and
Culture with Citizen
Dr. Jacinta M. Gau
Associate Professor
Department of Criminal Justice
University of Central Florida
What is Legitimacy?
• Every authority needs to justify the power it holds over the populace
• Especially when that authority possesses the ability to induce compliance by
physical force or violence
• There are different types of legitimacy
• Rational legitimacy is the heart of modern systems of government
and bureaucracy
What is Legitimacy?
• Rational legitimacy (legitimacy) is earned when an authority acts in an
honest, open manner
• The government or agency’s purpose is clearly identified
• The government or agency has a set of laws, policies, and/or procedures that
govern its operations
• The government or agency is accountable to the public and to other
governmental bodies or agencies
What is Legitimacy?
• Legitimacy is governance by consent. Members of the citizenry
voluntarily submit to an authority figure when they trust that
authority to use its power responsibly
• Placing trust in an agency or person makes the trustor vulnerable to the
trustee, the latter of whom holds the power in the relationship
Legitimacy and Compliance
• Legitimacy promotes widespread, voluntary compliance
• An agency responsible for maintaining public order cannot constantly
monitor every location and every citizen. The citizenry must selfregulate
• Exercise self-control
• Hold one another accountable
• Be willing to work with the authority to solve problems
Legitimacy and Compliance in Policing
• Compliance with the law and obedience to individual officers’
• In maintaining order, police rely heavily on voluntary compliance
• Ordering a crowd to disperse, ordering loiterers or suspicious-looking
individuals to leave the area, getting people to call the police to report
problems, getting witnesses to provide information, etc.
• Can’t arrest everybody who disrupts public spaces or commits crime.
Officers need to have multiple options– not just arrest– for
maintaining order
Two Levels of Legitimacy
• The meso level: the organization/agency
• The micro level: the individual actors/employees
• The two interact
• The amount of legitimacy that the organization has will determine how much
legitimacy its employees possess
• The day-to-day actions of the employees and the way they interact with
members of the public affect not only their individual legitimacy, but also that
of the organization
The Origins and Maintenance of Legitimacy
• The origins are in transparency and accountability, as discussed
• Day-to-day maintenance, however, requires organizations and actors
to continuously demonstrate their judicious, prudent use of the
power they hold
• The procedural justice model of police legitimacy proposes that
respectful treatment of civilians helps police maintain legitimacy.
Treating people respectfully and with dignity shows civilians that
officers take their responsibility seriously, and that officers recognize
that they are powerful, but also accountable
Procedural Justice
• Procedural justice enhances both individual and meso levels of
• People feel more trusting of individual employees
• People believe that the organization is properly training and supervising its
employees, making sure they remain true to the stated mission/goal of the
Procedural Justice
• Procedural justice can enhance police legitimacy and, thus, promote
compliance and obedience
• Compliance and obedience are stronger when achieved through PJ
than through the threat of arrest
• Deterrence is spotty, especially for lower-level offenses. People might think
something is no big deal, or know they will probably get away with it.
• Can’t arrest everyone
The Social Psychology of Procedural Justice
• PJ has another side, one grounded in social psychology (the study of
how people interact with their social environment)
• The social psychology of authority holds that an authority figure’s
treatment of a subordinate conveys information about the value that
the authority figure places on the subordinate
• Rude or dismissive treatment = “I don’t care about you.”
• Respectful and fair treatment = “You are important to me.”
The Social Psychology of Procedural Justice
• This is particularly relevant in policing
• The types of behaviors considered “inside” the law and “outside” it
convey information about social values and morality
• When you are inside the law, you are also inside society. You are accepted and
• When you are outside the law, you are a condemned and rejected
• Nobody wants to be criticized or rejected. Humans have an innate
need to be valued and respected by society. They want to feel like
they are a part of it
The Social Psychology of Procedural Justice
• Police– as society’s sworn enforcers of social values and morals–
inevitably become the ones who make judgments about who is
“good” and who is “bad” in the eyes of society at-large
• Police officers’ actions are both instrumental and symbolic
• An officer’s manner of treating a civilian is not merely a reflection of
that officer’s personality or mood– it is a reflection of how much
society itself values that person
• Someone treated well feels like part of the group
• Someone treated poorly feels alienated, isolated
Procedural Justice, Compliance, and
• Due to its social-psychological impact, PJ might also increase
compliance and obedience directly (in addition to indirectly via
• People who feel they are accepted and valued by a group are more motivated
to obey the rules and authority figures within it
• People who feel alienated become angry and resentful. They do not care
about obeying the rules or authorities of the group that rejected them
The Direct and Indirect Effects of PJ
What is Procedural Justice?
• Four components to citizens’ perceptions that PJ is present or absent
during an encounter
Citizen participation (voice) prior to the officer reaching a decision
Perceived neutrality of the officer in her/his decision
Dignity and respect
Trustworthy motives
What is Procedural Justice?
• Actions officers can take to address each of the four components
• Voice
• Ask for information or input.
• Listen attentively.
• Neutrality
• Explain the reason why s/he got involved in the matter.
• Seek all viewpoints about the matter.
• Tell the participants that no decision will be rendered until every party has
had an opportunity to talk.
• After making a decision, explain why s/he chose to resolve the issue as s/he
What is Procedural Justice?
• Dignity
• Show respect consistently throughout the entire encounter. Even intermittent
disrespect can undermine the effort.
• Go beyond “business-like” respect and genuinely convey regard for the
civilian and her/his situation.
What is Procedural Justice?
• Trustworthiness: Showing care and concern
• Ask about civilian’s well-being.
• Offer comfort or reassurance.
• Exert control or influence over another person on the civilian’s behalf, or
promise to do so.
• File a report for the citizen, or promise to do so.
• Act, or promise to act, on behalf of the civilian with a government agency or
private organization.
• Provide or arrange physical assistance, or promise to do so.
• Officer advice to the citizen for handling the situation or problem.
What is Procedural Justice?
• Not every single element of each of the four domains must be
present. Officers should adhere to the domains and specific actions
within those domains to the extent possible, adapting them as
Switching Gears: Police Culture
• Culture = the attitudinal frameworks and behavioral strategies that
police develop as a result of multiple pressures levied upon them by
supervisors and others within their department (organizational
environment) and by the emotional drains and physical dangers they
face on the street (occupational or street environment)
• Culture is passed down from one “generation” of officers to the next
• Informal socialization, FTOs, and other interactions that new officers have
with older ones
Elements of Police Culture
• Occupational environment (civilians)
• Suspiciousness
• Constant threat of potential danger; never let your guard down
• Maintaining the edge
• Constantly display coercive power/command presence; control the situation
Elements of Police Culture
• Organizational environment (supervisors)
• Lay low/CYA
• Stay out of things; more exposure to situations, incidents, and civilians increases the risk
of supervisor scrutiny
• Adopt a crime-fighter orientation
• Commendations, awards, and promotions are based on crime-related outputs (arrests,
citations, crimes solved, response times, etc.), so these are the only worthwhile activities
Elements of Police Culture
• Officer-to-officer environment
• Social isolation
• Friendship limited to other officers; civilians don’t understand
• Loyalty
• Don’t talk to supervisors about other officers’ behavior; officers have to watch each
others’ backs
• Code of silence
Procedural Justice vs. Police Culture
Procedural Justice
Police Culture
Citizen voice–solicit their input and listen attentively
Be suspicious—civilians can’t be trusted, treat them all
as potentially dangerous
Neutrality—let all parties talk before making a
decision, and explain that decision
Maintain the edge–keep civilians aware of your
coercive authority
Dignity– treat civilians respectfully
Lay low—don’t do anything that could catch
supervisors’ attention
Trustworthiness– show care and concern to show
them that you have their best interests in mind
Be a crime fighter—there are no rewards for making
people feel better or delivering them satisfactory
service, all that matters are crime-related outputs
Stick with other cops—civilians don’t understand
Code of silence—never provide incriminating
statements against another officer
Bridging the Gap between PJ and Culture
• There are differences– some of them big– between the types of
behaviors required by the PJ model and the attitudes and behaviors
endemic to the traditional police culture
• But there are many reasons to think that– with commitment on the
part of police-agency executives, supervisors, and trainers—the
elements of PJ can become part of officers’ standard behavioral
Variability in Cultural Attitudes
• For one thing, there is substantial variability in officer attitudes
• Most officers subscribe to at least a few of the cultural elements
• Danger/suspiciousness and maintaining the edge/coercive authority seem to
be fairly common
• Officers do place a premium on protecting their peers, though support for the
code of silence is much less today than in the past
Variability in Cultural Attitudes
• But many display attitudes very typical of a community-focused
• Social isolation not uniform– many officers do like to socialize with non-police
officers outside of work
• Many officers do not think that effective policing requires detachment from
the communities they work in
What does it all mean?
• In sum, there is camaraderie among officers. They are loyal to each
other, though this loyalty does not necessarily extend to the point of
lying for their peers
• They are wary of the ever-present potential for violence, but there is
no evidence to suggest that they cannot engage in PJ while continuing
to be vigilant for signs that a situation is worsening
• There is a growing sentiment that the community can be engaged in
the anti-crime effort
Training Tips: Making Officers aware of the
Importance of PJ
• Many officers intuitively understand that remaining calm and being
polite help keep situations from escalating
• What they might not be aware of is how important every face-to-face
contact with a civilian is to the overall effectiveness of a police force
and safety to its officers
• The officer who is rude or abusive to a civilian might be endangering the next
officer who comes into contact with that person
• Academy and in-service training, as well as day-to-day conversations,
should emphasize that every contact matters
Training Tips: Teaching the Four Elements
• The four elements of procedural justice– and the specific behaviors
each element encompasses– can be made part of academy and inservice training
• These behaviors are tactics designed to accomplish an overarching
strategic goal, so teaching them the tactics will give them the tools
they need to accomplish that goal
Training Tips: Making Dialogue Key
• Dialogue matters more than the specific mechanics of the encounter
• Traffic stops, arrests, investigations, warrant execution, problem-oriented
policing, conferences, school-based programs, crackdowns, and so on
• What matters is that police employ elements of each of the four
domains in their face-to-face encounters with civilians
Training Tips: Making Dialogue Key
• Example: An Australian police department significantly improved citizen
satisfaction by having officers at a roadside sobriety checkpoint read a
script specifically designed to tap into each of the four elements.
• Neutrality: “You were not specifically singled out for this [breath] test.”
• Trustworthy motives: “Can you please help us by driving safely?”
• Citizen voice: “Do you have any other questions for me about this
[checkpoint] or anything else?”
• Dignity/respect: “I just want to finish off by thanking you for [select a
positive thing that the driver did]”
Performance Measures
• Fundamental fact: Rewards encourage certain behaviors and
discourage others. An activity that is rewarded will be completed
more consistently than one that is not
• Traditional performance measures are incompatible with modern
• Telling officers to try to prevent crimes, but only rewarding them for solving
them. Telling them to try to resolve situations creatively, yet measuring
numbers of arrests
• Need to modernize the criteria necessary for awards and promotions
Measuring PJ
• Community surveys
• Periodic random samples of the entire jurisdiction
• Surveys of randomly selected individuals who have had recent encounters
with officers
• Less ideal: have officers provide surveys at the end of an encounter
• Active solicitation of community feedback through social media
• Encourage reporting of all types of opinions, not just negative ones
• Meetings with community leaders who can provide a valid
assessment of the general attitude among those they speak for
• Homeowners’ associations presidents, church leaders active in the
community, etc.
Recommended Readings
Jonathan-Zamir, Mastrofski, & Moyal (2013). Measuring procedural justice in police-citizen
encounters. Justice Quarterly. Forthcoming.
Mazerolle, Bennett, Davis, Sargeant, & Manning (2013). Legitimacy in policing: A systematic review.
Oslo, Norway: The Campbell Collaboration.
Paoline & Terrill (2014). Police culture: Adapting to the strains of the job. Durham, NC: North
Carolina Academic Press.
For further information, please feel free to contact me:
Jacinta M. Gau, Ph.D.
University of Central Florida
[email protected]

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