Bounded Authority: Expanding ‘Appropriate’ Police Behavior Beyond Procedural Justice
22 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2016 Last revised: 7 Mar 2018
Date Written: August 22, 2017
This paper expands previous conceptualizations of appropriate police behavior beyond procedural justice. The focus of the current study is on the notion of bounded authority – i.e. respecting the limits of one’s power. Work on legal socialization shows how citizens come to acquire three dimensions of values that determine how authorities ought to behave: (a) neutral, consistent and transparent decision-making; (b) interpersonal treatment that conveys respect, dignity and concern; and (c) respect for the limits of rightful authority. Using survey data from a nationally representative sample of US adults, we show that concerns over bounded authority, respectful treatment, and neutral decision-making combine to form a strong predictor of police and legal legitimacy. Legal legitimacy is also associated with greater compliance behavior, controlling for personal morality and perceived likelihood of sanctions. Our conclusions address some future directions of research, particularly in the extension of procedural justice theory.
Keywords: Procedural justice, Legal socialization, Legitimacy, Public contact with the police, Trust, Compliance, Policing by consent
JEL Classification: K40, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation