The quality of police contact: procedural justice concerns among victims of crime in London

Published: May 2010

There is sustained academic and policy interest in the point of contact between the police and public, not least because reassurance and other policing strategies hope to improve the quality of these interactions and thus to enhance public trust and confidence in the police. It is therefore important to understand how people judge such encounters. What are the characteristics of a positively received contact, and what are the features of the encounter most important to subsequent confidence in policing? The procedural justice model developed by Tom Tyler and colleagues in the United States predicts that fair, decent and appropriate treatment – and not results – is key in securing public support for the police. By fostering feelings of procedural justice and motive-based trust, and indicating shared group membership, fair treatment is linked to improvements in police legitimacy. Using data from the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Victims Survey this paper tests some of the key predictions of the model, and consistent evidence of a procedural justice effect is presented. Decent treatment and proper actions are consistently valued over outcomes and are associated with higher expected levels of confidence and greater acceptance of police actions and decisions. But police legitimacy is not simply created through contact but exists prior to it. Easton’s twin concepts of diffuse and specific support are used to unpack respondent’s opinions, and levels of diffuse support are shown to affect the ways in which encounters are experienced and assessed.

Authors / Editors

Research Themes

Criminal Justice Process and Institutions