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  • Citizens’ Subjective Experience and Police Action

    Robert E. Worden, Sarah J. McLean

    Chapter from the book: Worden R. & McLean S. 2017. Mirage of Police Reform: Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy.


    This chapter offers a test of the hypothesis that officers’ behavior in police-citizen encounters affects citizens’ subjective experience. The results indicate that officers’ procedural justice has effects on citizens’ judgments about procedural justice, though the effects are modest in magnitude and are asymmetrical—the negative effects of procedural injustice are larger than the positive effects of procedural justice, which are quite small. Officers’ procedural justice also has very small effects on citizens’ judgments about outcomes and on citizen satisfaction. At the same time, the use of authority by officers affects subjective experience. Searches have a strongly negative effect on subjective experience, which is by and large neutralized when citizens consent to a search, and the use of physical force also influences citizens’ subjective experience. The asymmetrical effects of procedural justice do not spring from a negativity bias, however. To the contrary, it appears that citizens are rather generous to police in their judgments about procedural justice, relative to the more concrete accounts of officers’ actions by trained, independent observers.

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    Worden R. & McLean S. 2017. Citizens’ Subjective Experience and Police Action. In: Worden R. & McLean S, Mirage of Police Reform. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.30.g

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    Published on May 12, 2017