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What price fairness when security is at stake?: police legitimacy in South Africa

Bradford, Ben, Huq, Aziz, Jackson, Jonathan ORCID: 0000-0003-2426-2219 and Roberts, Benjamin (2014) What price fairness when security is at stake?: police legitimacy in South Africa. Regulation and Governance, 8 (2). pp. 246-268. ISSN 1748-5983

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Identification Number: 10.1111/rego.12012


The legitimacy of legal authorities – particularly the police – is central to the state’s ability to function in a normatively justifiable and effective manner. Studies, mostly conducted in the US and UK, regularly find that procedural justice is the most important antecedent of police legitimacy, with judgements about other aspects of its behaviour – notably, its effectiveness – appearing less relevant. But this idea has received only sporadic testing in less cohesive societies where social order is more tenuous, resources to sustain it scarcer, and where the position of the police is less secure. This paper considers whether the link between process fairness and legitimacy holds in the challenging context of present day South Africa. In a high crime and socially divided society do people still emphasise procedural fairness, or are they more interested in instrumental effectiveness? How is the legitimacy of the police influenced by the wider problems faced by the South African state? We find procedural fairness judgements play a key role, but also that South Africans place greater emphasis on police effectiveness (and concerns about crime). We also find that police legitimacy is associated with citizens’ judgements about the wider success and trustworthiness of the state. This opens up new directions for legitimacy research in the context of policing and criminal justice.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2012 15:26
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 02:07
Funders: Open Society Foundation for South Africa (OSF-SA)

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