Mirage of Police Reform

Mirage of Police Reform

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In the United States, the exercise of police authority—and the public’s trust that police authority is used properly—is a recurring concern. Contemporary prescriptions for police reform hold that the public would trust the police more and feel a greater obligation to comply and cooperate if police-citizen interactions were marked by higher levels of procedural justice by police. In this book, Robert E. Worden and Sarah J. McLean argue that the procedural justice model of reform is a mirage. From a distance, procedural justice seems to offer relief from strained police-community relations. But a closer look at police organizations and police-citizen interactions shows that the relief offered by such reform is, in fact, illusory. A procedural justice model of policing is likely to be only loosely coupled with police practice, despite the best intentions, and improvements in procedural justice on the part of police are unlikely to result in corresponding improvements in citizens’ perceptions of procedural justice.

“Rigorous and thoughtful, this book’s careful methodology and provocative conclusions on procedural justice illuminate key challenges for political leaders, policy makers, and practitioners who strive to improve police-community relations in America. A must-read for police researchers!” STEVEN MASTROFSKI, George Mason University

“This timely book challenges widespread assumptions about procedural justice. It provides a potent reminder that much remains to be learned about how people form perceptions of the police, and how police agencies can influence these perceptions.” EDWARD R. MAGUIRE, Arizona State University

“Since Ferguson, the nation has been searching for solutions to the legitimacy crisis that has engulfed policing. Procedural justice was the number one reform put forward by President Obama’s commission. This book digs into this proposal and provides the best evidence to date on how it actually affects police behavior and public acceptance of being policed.” WESLEY G. SKOGAN, Northwestern University

ROBERT E. WORDEN is Director of the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety and Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University at Albany, SUNY.
SARAH J. McLEAN is Associate Director and Director of Research and Technical Assistance at the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety.

This book is included in DOAB.

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  • Compstat
  • loose coupling
  • police behavior
  • police legitimacy
  • police management
  • police reform
  • police-community
  • Police-community relations
  • procedural justice
  • Relations
  • sensemaking


DOI: 10.1525/luminos.30


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