Monopolizing Force? Police Legitimacy and Public Attitudes toward the Acceptability of Violence
Psychology, Public Policy and Law, Forthcoming
31 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2012 Last revised: 10 May 2013
Date Written: May 9, 2013
Why do people believe that violence is acceptable? In this paper we study people’s normative beliefs about the acceptability of violence to achieve social control (as a substitute for the police, for self-protection and the resolution of disputes) and social change (through violent protests and acts to achieve political goals). Addressing attitudes towards violence among young men from various ethnic minority communities in London, we find that procedural justice is strongly correlated with police legitimacy, and that positive judgments about police legitimacy predicts more negative views about the use of violence. We conclude with the idea that police legitimacy has an additional, hitherto unrecognized, empirical property – by constituting the belief that the police monopolise rightful force in society, legitimacy can create a ‘crowding out’ effect on positive views of private violence.
Keywords: Attitudes towards violence, public trust, procedural justice, institutional legitimacy
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