The Campbell Collaboration
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Legitimacy in Policing

The key feature of a legitimate police force is that people feel obliged to voluntarily comply with or obey the police. Police require such voluntary cooperation from the general public to be effective in controlling crime and maintaining order.  What is the impact of police efforts that seek to enhance citizen perceptions of police legitimacy?

Findings from a Campbell systematic review show that police led interventions specifically aimed at increasing legitimacy have a significant impact on public satisfaction with and confidence in the police. Such interventions are also associated with significantly increased public compliance/cooperation, procedural justice (fairness, neutrality, etc.) and legitimacy (obligation to obey police/law). Interventions also had a minor effect on reoffending.

This systematic review included 41 evaluations of police led interventions aimed at increasing legitimacy. Included interventions ranged from community policing strategies to informal contact between police officers and school-age children.

The review team was led by Lorraine Mazerolle, Research Professor in the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) at the University of Queensland and an Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellow.