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Dissension in public evaluations of the police

Waddington, P. A. J., Williams, Kate, Wright, Martin and Newburn, Tim (2015) Dissension in public evaluations of the police. Policing and Society, 25 (2). pp. 212-235. ISSN 1043-9463

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Identification Number: 10.1080/10439463.2013.833799


The way in which police officers deal with the public has a profound and predominantly negative influence on how the police generally are viewed by the public. Tyler's theory of ‘procedural justice’ argues that if officers act with fairness and respect when interacting with the public, they can win legitimacy. This theory is however one sided; the process of interaction involves not only how the police behave, but also how members of the public perceive and interpret that behaviour. This article examines the perceptions and interpretations of police actions by 34 diverse focus groups in the ‘Black Country’ region of the West Midlands using a real-life videoed encounter between police officers and a suspected car thief. Whilst issues of fairness and respect surfaced repeatedly in these focus group discussions, there was also widespread dissension about how crucial phases of the encounter were perceived and appraised. Various participants drew attention to the same occurrences within the video clip to justify entirely contradictory evaluations. This demonstrates the problematic relationship between action, perception and approval. It poses an enormous practical problem for police officers in winning the trust and confidence of the public whom they encounter in the course of their duties, for there is no simple recipe for winning legitimacy.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2013 Taylor & Francis
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2013 09:24
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:48

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