Ethical perspectives and police science: Using Social Contract Theory as an analytical framework for evaluating police legitimacy

Tal Jonathan-Zamir*, Gali Perry, James J. Willis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

It has recently been argued that ethical/moral considerations could be better integrated into the science of policing. The present study picks up the gauntlet and examines if a central normative theory of government authority—Social Contract Theory—can contribute to our understanding of police legitimacy. Building on five constraints on police authority derived from Social Contract Theory, the present study examines the relationship between citizen views of police compliance with the social contract while enforcing COVID-19 regulations, and of police legitimacy. A community survey carried out in Israel reveals that public evaluations of the appropriate balance between liberty, safety, and police authority, have a significant, independent correlation with legitimacy, surpassed only by views of procedural justice. These findings have implications for the theory, practice, and future study of police legitimacy, but more generally demonstrate the utility of theoretical–philosophical theories and concepts concerned with ethics for contemporary research questions in policing.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberpaad056
JournalPolicing (Oxford)
Volume17
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

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