Policing and Social Identity: Procedural Justice, Inclusion, and Cooperation between Police and Public

25 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2012  

Ben Bradford

University of Oxford - Centre for Criminology

Date Written: January 28, 2012


Accounts of the social representation of policing and of the relationship between police and citizen converge on the idea that police behaviour carries important identity-relevant meaning. Opinions of and ideas about the police are implicated in the formation of social identities that relate to the social groups it represents – nation, state and community. Procedural justice theory suggests that judgements about the fairness of the police will be the most important factor in such processes. Fairness promotes a sense of inclusion and value within the group. Furthermore, positive social identities in relation to the police should on this account promote cooperation with it. This paper presents an empirical test of these ideas in the context of British policing. Data from a survey of young Londoners are used to show that perceptions of police fairness are indeed associated with social identity, and in turn social identity can be linked to cooperation. Yet these relationships were much stronger among those with multiple national identities. Police behaviour appeared more identity relevant for people who felt they were citizens of a non-UK country, while for those who identified only as British there was a weaker link between procedural fairness and social identity, and legitimacy judgements were the main ‘drivers’ of cooperation. Policy and theoretical implications are discussed.

Keywords: Policing, procedural justice, social identity, cooperation

Suggested Citation

Bradford, Ben, Policing and Social Identity: Procedural Justice, Inclusion, and Cooperation between Police and Public (January 28, 2012). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06/2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1994350 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1994350

Ben Bradford (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Centre for Criminology ( email )

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Oxford, OX1 3UQ
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