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Trust, Legitimacy and Authority
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Renowned criminologist Mike Hough illuminates the principles and practices of good policing in this important analysis of the police service’s legitimacy and the factors, such as public trust, that drive it.

As concern grows at the growth in crimes of serious violence, he challenges conventional political and public thinking on crime and scrutinises strategies and tactics like deterrence and stop-and-search. Contrasting ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ approaches to policing and punishment, he offers a fresh perspective that stresses the importance of securing normative compliance.

For officers, students, policy makers and anyone who has an interest in the police force, this is a valuable roadmap for ethical policing.

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The introduction first describes the policy context in which discussions of policing take place, and the tendency for politicians and the media to see crime problems – and solutions – within a simplistic deterrence framework which rappeals to provides some context for a discussion of good policing. It then summarises the book’s arguments in brief. It moves on to characterise procedural justice theory as offering both a descriptive account of how legitimacy is built (or lost) and a normative theory about what good policing looks like. It traces similarities between procedural justice theory and other approaches such as ‘responsive regulation’. It describes how procedural justice theory relates to other theories of policing. The chapter ends by describing the content of the remaining chapters.

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This chapter sets out the conceptual framework that underpins the book’s arguments. Police legitimacy, seen through the eyes of the policed, provides the foundation of good policing. Whilst many factors can shape the degree of legitimacy that people confer on the police, policing styles – how the police go about their work – matter greatly. The surest route to building police legitimacy is for officers to act with procedural fairness. People value being treated with dignity and respect; they want to be listened to, and to get explanations for police actions; they expect the police to act fairly and ‘play by the rules’. The more that the police achieve this, the stronger the sense of identification will be between police and policed, and the more that people will feel that the police share their values and have their best interests at heart. That lays the foundation for a strong commitment to the rule of law.

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This chapter summarises some of the key evidence showing that procedural justice strategies are effective ways of securing people’s compliance and cooperation within policing. According to surveys such as the European Social Survey (ESS) and the International Self Report Delinquency Study (ISRD), both adults and teenagers value fairness, and fair treatment motivates people to cooperate with each other and comply with what others want of them. Treating people fairly is by no means the only way of getting them to do things. Instrumental strategies – offering inducements, rewards and punishments – can often work equally well. However, strategies of this sort have larger financial and social costs. In the final analysis, both individuals and organisations have to make choices about the ways in which we get people to behave as we wish. Choices between normative and instrumental strategies are partly instrumental, but they are also unavoidably normative or ethical ones.

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This chapter examines trust in the police and perceptions of police legitimacy among minority groups, focussing on those from migrant and ethnic minorities. These groups are disproportionately ensnared in the justice system in most ethnically diverse Western countries, and they are over-represented in their prison populations. The chapter offers an explanation for these patterns that focusses on the progressive social and economic marginalisation of migrants from visible minority groups over time, resulting from discriminatory treatment in systems of education, employment and justice. Migrants have generally arrived in their new countries with optimism and positive attitudes towards the police and other institutions of their chosen country. Over time and over generations, this positive outlook is overshadowed by negative experiences of the police, by falling trust in the police, and by reductions in levels of legitimacy conferred on the police. The chapter discusses ways of recovering relations between police and minority groups.

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This chapter considers approaches to embedding principles of procedural justice in policing. Leadership, with strong support from middle managers is clearly essential. One dimension to this is to convey to the workforce the practical benefits that flow from the approach: cooperation and compliance from the public, greater officer safety, fewer complaints from the public. Another important dimension to for leaders to ensure that the ethos within the force is consistent with principles of organisational justice. There must be organisational fairness within police organisations. Organisational fairness is also closely correlated with officers’ sense of self-legitimacy, or their confidence in wielding authority – and self-legitimacy is another precondition for getting the workforce to adopt principles of procedural justice. Training is another strand in the change strategy, and the results of evaluations are positive. Finally the trend towards police professionalisation may prove complementary to, and supportive of, procedural justice approaches to policing.

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This chapter explores ethical issues that are raised by procedural justice approaches to policing. Both in individual contacts between police and public and at a societal level, problems can result from the use of low-visibility techniques for securing compliance. There is a risk that people’s choices about compliance with the law are being reshaped by stealth: their autonomy as citizens may be eroded when police officers manage them into compliance through a display of civility and respect. At a societal level, the appearance of the police as an even-handed and fair institution can serve as an ‘ideological cloak’ that hides from public view structural inequality and unfairness. The chapter argues that these risks can be mitigated if police commit to the normative foundation of procedural justice, and do not simply focus on the instrumental benefits of the approach. They need to recognise their duty to treat citizens fairly and with respect.

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This chapter discusses some question raised, but not fully answered, in earlier chapters. The first is whether we require police to behave morally, or ethically. It argues that the distinction between ethical and moral behaviour is a significant one, and that police officers should be assesses against ethical standards of behaviour rather than their moral reasoning. Secondly there are questions relating to the risks of coupling policing and the law too closely to public morality. The chapter argues that there are boundaries between criminal law and public morality that the police should be very cautious about crossing. Finally the chapter stresses the importance of foregrounding the normative foundations upon which procedural justice theory is built, which are best analysed within frameworks of human rights, social rights and democratic values. This will mitigate the risk that the procedural justice approach will be seen simply as a series of behavioural tricks and shortcuts for securing compliance.

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This short postscript was written in early June 2020 after the book was largely complete, to consider the important implications that the procedural justice perspective has for the policing of emergencies that require significant restrictions of citizens’ freedom. The chapter summarises how the pandemic emerged in the UK over the first five months of 2020. It discusses how the government advice and requirements were more far-reaching and intrusive than the emergency legislation, and how this initially created tensions. The police response improved, with effective guidance from their profession bodies, stressing a graduated approach to enforcement. However, the government response suffered from a series of misjudgements and scandals that seriously dented public trust and reduced public compliance with government requirements.

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This volume records the proceedings of a symposium that took place in July 2005 on the topic of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS).

The event was organised and funded by three centres associated with the School of Law at King’s College London: the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, and the International Centre for Prison Studies.

We decided to mount an event examining the proposals for NOMS because the government had introduced radical proposals for reforming the prison and probation services with limited consultation and with minimal public debate. We decided to focus largely on probation issues because the implications for the probation service were the most immediate and particularly far-reaching. Airing these issues seemed to be of particular value given that although the government was clearly determined on reform, the precise direction of this reform was – in mid 2005 – remarkably unclear. A parliamentary Bill had been introduced in 2004 to make the changes needed to implement the NOMS proposals, but this had yet to pass through Parliament when the 2005 general election was called. At the time of writing (September 2005) it was expected that provisions for NOMS would be included in a Bill to be placed before Parliament in early 2006, transferring statutory responsibility for probation work from probation boards to the Secretary of State. This apart, the content of the Bill remained a matter for speculation.

The symposium was held in Blackfriars, London. Participants included Lord Carter, Martin Narey, the then chief executive of NOMS, and other senior NOMS representatives, as well as academics and representatives of non-governmental organisations with an interest in criminal justice.

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