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Bounded authority: expanding ‘appropriate’ police behavior beyond procedural justice

Jackson, Jonathan ORCID: 0000-0003-2426-2219, Trinkner, R. and Tyler, Tom R. (2018) Bounded authority: expanding ‘appropriate’ police behavior beyond procedural justice. Law and Human Behavior, 42 (3). pp. 280-293. ISSN 0147-7307

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Identification Number: 10.1037/lhb0000285


This paper expands previous conceptualizations of appropriate police behavior beyond procedural justice. The focus of the current study is on the notion of bounded authority – i.e. acting within the limits of one’s rightful authority. According to work on legal socialization, US citizens come to acquire three dimensions of values that determine how authorities ought to behave: (a) neutral, consistent and transparent decision-making; (b) interpersonal treatment that conveys respect, dignity and concern; and (c) respecting the limits of one’s rightful power. Using survey data from a nationally representative sample of US adults, we show that concerns over bounded authority, respectful treatment, and neutral decision-making combine to form a strong predictor of police and legal legitimacy. We also find that legal legitimacy is associated with greater compliance behavior, controlling for personal morality and perceived likelihood of sanctions. We discuss the implications of a boundary perspective with respect to ongoing debates over the appropriate scope of police power and the utility of concentrated police activities. We also highlight the need for further research specifically focused on the psychological mechanisms underlying the formation of boundaries and why they shape the legitimacy of the police and law.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 American Psychological Association
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2018 11:29
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:38
Funders: Yale Law School, New York University

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