Police Legitimacy and Policing Public Protest

38 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2011

Date Written: November 15, 2010


This paper explores police legitimacy in the context of protest policing. The overarching aim is to address how the police might enhance their legitimacy in a protest context. I draw from Beetham’s (1991) proposition that political legitimacy requires alignment between shared public values and institutional standards, and propose a means of bridging the two sets of principles. I suggest that procedural justice theory and the Elaborated Social Identity Model (ESIM) of crowd behaviour allow us to understand the public values that drive police legitimacy in both a general and protest context, namely an overriding concern for fair and respectful process. Next I argue that these values should be institutionally substantiated by a human rights framework. This allows us to buttress policing principles premised on public values with a normative framework and thus meet the criterion for legitimacy according to Beetham’s model. The compatibility between these three singular narratives makes a powerful and coherent argument for protest policing premised upon fairness and respect. I suggest that this style of policing is more likely to sustain public order and allows us to reconcile protester objectives - the ability and right to protest - with key policing objectives, including public order and public safety.

Keywords: police, legitimacy, political protest, trust, confidence, criminal justice

Suggested Citation

Murray, Katherine Helen, Police Legitimacy and Policing Public Protest (November 15, 2010). U. of Edinburgh School of Law Working Paper No. 2010/36, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1709401 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1709401

Katherine Helen Murray (Contact Author)

University of Edinburgh ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
United Kingdom

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