Publications /

15 October 2012

Compliance with the Law and Policing by Consent: Notes on Police and Legal Legitimacy

By: Jonathan Jackson, Methodology Institute and Mannheim Centre for Criminology, LSE, Ben Bradford, Methodology Institute and Mannheim Centre for Criminology, LSE, Mike Hough, Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck College, University of London and Katherine H. Murray, School of Law, University of Edinburgh

Book chapter in Crawford, A. and Hucklesby, A. (eds.) Legitimacy and Compliance in Criminal Justice. Routledge. Evolved from a paper published in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice in July 2010

This article summarizes ‘procedural justice’ approaches to policing, contrasting these to the more politically dominant discourse about policing as crime control.
It argues that public trust in policing is needed partly because this may result in public cooperation with justice, but more importantly because public trust in justice builds institutional legitimacy and thus public compliance with the law, and commitment to, the rule of law. We define police legitimacy as obligation to obey and moral alignment. We link police legitimacy to legal legitimacy/cynicism, and both to compliance with the law. Some recent survey findings are presented in support of this perspective.
To summarize, the present article demonstrates that by adopting a traditional concept of policing as crime control, compliance with and abiding by the law are likely to be achieved only as an outcome, police practices being ends in themselves, while by approaching the matter from a different point of view - i.e. by implementing a policy based on procedural justice -, the result would be represented by the mutually reinforcing development of public compliance in conjunction with equally desirable developments in police practice.

Documents to download

SSRN_crawford_chapter_revised.pdf [0.22 MB],