What Price Fairness When Security is at Stake? Police Legitimacy in South Africa
University of Oxford - Centre for Criminology
Aziz Z. Huq
University of Chicago - Law School
London School of Economics & Political Science - Department of Methodology
Benjamin J. Roberts
Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC)
August 20, 2012
Bradford, B., Huq A., Jackson, J. and Roberts, B. (2013). ‘What Price Fairness When Security is at Stake? Police Legitimacy in South Africa’, Regulation and Governance, doi: 10.1111/rego.12012
The legitimacy of legal authorities – particularly the police – is central to the state’s ability to function in a normatively justifiable and effective manner. Studies, mostly conducted in the US and UK, regularly find that procedural justice is the most important antecedent of police legitimacy, with judgements about other aspects of its behaviour – notably, its effectiveness – appearing less relevant. But this idea has received only sporadic testing in less cohesive societies where social order is more tenuous, resources to sustain it scarcer, and where the position of the police is less secure. This paper considers whether the link between process fairness and legitimacy holds in the challenging context of present day South Africa. In a high crime and socially divided society do people still emphasise procedural fairness, or are they more interested in instrumental effectiveness? How is the legitimacy of the police influenced by the wider problems faced by the South African state? We find procedural fairness judgements play a key role, but also that South Africans place greater emphasis on police effectiveness (and concerns about crime). We also find that police legitimacy is associated with citizens’ judgements about the wider success and trustworthiness of the state. This opens up new directions for legitimacy research in the context of policing and criminal justice.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 21
Keywords: public confidence, trust, legitimacy, cooperation, contact with the police
JEL Classification: K40Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 20, 2012 ; Last revised: March 11, 2013
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