Police self-legitimacy and democratic orientations: Assessing shared values

Publication Date01 December 2021
AuthorDavid R White,Michael J Kyle,Joseph A Schafer
Date01 December 2021
DOI10.1177/14613557211032603
SubjectArticles
Police self-legitimacy and democratic
orientations: Assessing shared values
David R White
Ferris State University, USA
Michael J Kyle
Missouri State University, USA
Joseph A Schafer
St. Louis University, USA
Abstract
Using a sample of frontline police ofcers from several mid-sized municipal police departments in the United States, this
study explores the relationships between frontline police ofcersself-legitimacy, organizational t, moral alignment with
policed communities, and attitudes toward democratic policing principles. Using partial least squares structural equation
modeling, the analysis frames democratic policing using a formative latent construct to test several hypotheses. The
results support a direct positive relationship between self-legitimacy and attitudes toward democratic policing, and sug-
gest the relationship is partially mediated by ofcersperceptions of moral alignment with their policed communities . The
results further demonstrate that self-legitimacy is signicantly related to organizational t, but organizational t does not
appear to mediate the relationship between self-legitimacy and attitudes toward democratic policing.
Keywords
Police self-legitimacy, democratic policing, value congruence.
Submitted 24 Feb 2021, Revise received 11 Sep 2020, accepted 28 Jun 2021
Introduction
In a democratic society, the institutional role of policing is
awkward at best (Bitner, 1970; Manning, 2010). There is
broad recognition that on the frontlines of police practice,
those ofcers who accept the tenets of procedural justice
treating people with respect and dignity, giving them
voice, being neutral, and conveying trustworthy motives
carry out their role in ways that improve normative legiti-
macy (Sunshine and Tyler, 2003; Tyler, 2006). The
research on procedural justice has demonstrated that
peoples views about the legitimacy of a legal authority
can inuence their willingness to accept decisions, can
leave people feeling more satised with the decisions of
an authority, and can shape compliance behaviors(Hinds
and Murphy, 2007: 29; see also Sunshine and Tyler,
2003; Taskforce, 2015; Tyler, 2006). This research con-
trasts the normative aspects of legitimacy-building with
instrumental forms of coercive control based in reward
and punishment (see Hinds and Murphy, 2007; see also
Trubek, 1972; Weber, 1968). Police ofcers who embrace
democratic policing principles should embrace the proce-
dural justice model and should rely on physical force only
as a last resort.
Corresponding author:
David R White, School of Criminal Justice, Ferris State University, 1349
Cramer Circle, Bishop Hall 528, Big Rapids, MI 49307, USA.
Email: davidrwhite@ferris.edu
Article
International Journal of
Police Science & Management
2021, Vol. 23(4) 431444
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions
DOI: 10.1177/14613557211032603
journals.sagepub.com/home/psm

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