Beyond experiments: Is there a subjective causal relationship between procedural justice and police legitimacy?

Gali Perry*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A recent, lively debate in the policing literature questions the proposition that there is a causal relationship between citizens’ perceptions of police-provided Procedural Justice (PJ) and police legitimacy. Most attempts to test this question have relied on randomized control trials or longitudinal research designs. The current study adds to this debate by employing a complementary, qualitative approach to establishing causality, in which relationships are examined and causality is determined through the individual’s subjective narrative. To do so, interviews with 52 protesters who encountered the police during “Occupy Israel” demonstrations were subjected to a qualitative content analysis, which examined potential, subjective links between protesters’ perceptions of fairness (or unfairness) in police treatment during the demonstration, and subsequent perceptions of police legitimacy. The analysis revealed that a substantial majority of interviewees (77%) proactively described a subjective, causal relationship between evaluations of elements related to police legitimacy and preceding perceptions of fairness embedded in police treatment. Moreover, negative feelings—such as humiliation, de-humanization, helplessness, or loss of control—served as “mediators” linking perceived police unfairness to legitimacy. The potential contribution to the process-based model of policing and the advantages of subjective causality as a complementary approach in policing research are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalPolicing (Oxford)
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


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