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date: 12 December 2018

Abstract and Keywords

Legitimacy is now a stable topic in police studies. The weight of the evidence from various empirical studies is that public perceptions of police legitimacy (measured mainly in terms of people’s feelings of obligation to obey the police or the law) are grounded in the fairness of the procedures police employ in their interactions with citizens. Legitimacy, in turn, has been found to influence legal compliance and people’s willingness to support the police to fight crime. This essay takes stock of research on police legitimacy. It argues that theoretical analyses of legitimacy have so far lagged behind empirical studies, resulting in a conflation of legitimacy with other concepts. The essay discusses a new conceptual approach that stresses procedural justice, distributive justice, lawfulness, and effectiveness as dimensions of police legitimacy in a liberal democracy. The implications for future empirical analyses of legitimacy are discussed.

Keywords: legitimacy, procedural justice, distributive justice, effectiveness, lawfulness

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