From coercion to consent: social identity, legitimacy, and a process model of police procedural justice (CONSIL).

Lead Research Organisation: Keele University
Department Name: Faculty of Natural Sciences

Abstract

The concept of legitimacy lies at the heart of democratic policing: in a democratic society, police must seek and maintain public support by acting impartially, using coercion proportionately, and persuading the citizenry that they are an institution that is entitled to be obeyed. Yet, there are multiple highly marginalised communities for whom perceptions of police illegitimacy, non-compliance, conflict, and experiences of police coercion are the norm. With its central focus on fairness, legitimacy, identification between police and public, and normative compliance, Procedural Justice Theory (PJT) is a useful model to understand how to improve police community relations. But there are several aspects of the theory that limit its policy relevance in relation to policing marginalised groups - i.e. those with whom police have most contact.

First, PJT research focuses on the general population and only infrequently on sub-populations. While we know much about how people in general understand and read policing, and the role of fairness in such understandings, we know less about how general experiences feed across to those parts of the population who have most at stake in their interactions with officers, who have long histories of problematic relations with police, and/or are increasingly the focus of police strategic priorities (e.g. safeguarding, radicalisation, anti-social behaviour, protest groups). Second, there is a heavy reliance in extant research on survey data and correlational analysis, and there is a pressing need for laboratory-based experiments to establish causal relations and delineate the subjective processes linking procedural justice, legitimacy, and law-related behaviour. Third, there is a related failure to address the nature and role of social identity, intergroup relations, and the dynamics of police-public interaction as mediators of fairness, legitimacy, and compliance.

This project will address these limitations by developing two parallel programmes of research. First, we will use ethnographic methods to obtain direct semi-structured observational data of a series of police interactions with marginalised groups across a range of contexts. We will conduct interviews with the people involved in those encounters (police, 'citizen', observer) to interpret how encounters were experienced, processed, and judged. When arrests (or other forms of criminal justice action) take place, we will develop longitudinal data by tracking those individuals through the criminal justice processes, undertaking a further series of interviews and questionnaires with various stakeholders involved in that process. We will also have access to statistical data concerning the nature and context of the encounters (e.g. stop and search statistics). Second, we will translate a series of police-public encounters into a fully immersive Virtual Reality (VR) programme that participants will experience via headsets to engineer a series of experimental studies.

Both experimental and ethnographic strands will explore the following questions: 1) What specific role(s) does 'social identity' play in perceptions of procedural fairness? 2) What contextual factors shape people's perceptions of the fairness of police activity and how do these change through and within interaction? 3) Are marginalized/excluded groups attuned to the fairness of police behaviour in different ways, and how do the dynamics of interaction with police officers shape or undermine this marginalisation? 4) What effect does the experience of police procedural (in)justice have on the subsequent behaviour of the individuals concerned? By addressing these questions the project will advance our theoretical understanding of the ways police can move away from coercion toward a consent-based approach among highly marginalised and 'difficult to reach' groups; theoretical knowledge that will provide applied benefit for a range of different stakeholders.

Planned Impact

The primary academic beneficiaries of our research will be researchers interested in policing, procedural justice, and social identity; primarily in social sciences including law, criminology, and social psychology. The external beneficiaries will be police forces at a national and international level. The knowledge produced will be of benefit in terms of reducing the likelihood of police coercion and improving police public relationships, particularly regarding marginalised groups.

This project is timely. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Constabulary (HMIC), the UK's main police oversight body, has since 2014 conducted an annual 'PEEL Inspection' of every force in the UK, evaluating them in terms of the legitimacy with which they operate. These reviews ensure that the issue of police legitimacy and procedural fairness is, and will remain, high on the strategic agendas for our police partners. This will help ensure a resilient senior level interest in our research, above and beyond the specific involvement of any one individual commander.

Pathways to impact are built into the foundations of this project through formal partnership of three of the UK's largest urban police forces. Senior Officers from our partner forces were instrumental in helping define the research questions of the project via a workshop, funded by the University of Keele in February 2017. This knowledge co-production framework ensures that project findings will be considered at various levels throughout each organisation, maximising opportunities for research findings to be integrated into policy changes and reforms of operational practice. Given the size and influence of our partners it is also likely that our research will go on to impact upon other police forces outside our immediate collaborative framework, nationally and internationally. To further reinforce this capacity for co-production we will involve Senior Officers in an Advisory Group, that will meet annually. On a day to day basis partner forces will allocate a single point of contact (usually a senior officer) throughout the duration of the project and who will sit on a Steering Group that will meet twice a year. These individuals will act as a conduit directing project relevant findings into their organisation via the various Departments and Business Areas.

The academic research team is also highly experienced in creating impact and uniquely positioned to disseminate research findings via their respective institutions. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the London Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) have partnered with University College London (UCL) to establish 'The Institute for Global City Policing', the first formal research partnership between the MPS and academia. The Institute will focus on the challenges faced by police in global cities such as London, and on the essential work of building the evidence base for policing in the capital itself. Professor Ben Bradford is the Director of the Institute and will be ideally positioned to integrate the project's research findings into policy and practice with the UK's largest police force. Also, Keele University has formally partnered with West Midlands Police and Office of the Police and Crime Commissioners to establish a strategic inter-disciplinary Research Centre focused on knowledge coproduction. Keele Policing Academic Collaboration (KPAC) is a formal aspect of University's research strategy, has a salaried Centre Manager focused on engagement and is one of the UK's most significant academic policing research centres. As such the centre provides an existing institutional platform through which research findings can be disseminated from Keele University to regional, national, and international policing partners. Our end of project conference will also involve representatives from police forces from across and beyond UK and as such will also act as a platform for generating further pathways to impact.

Publications

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Description College of Policing internal media release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Discussion with a College of Policing Online Knowledge Officer resulted in the development of a media release to be shared internally with their colleagues and policing contacts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description KPAC Advisory Board Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Introduction of CONSIL project to Keele Policing Academic Collaboration partners, with initial discussion of progression for the project and identification of interested parties for participation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at Central Police University, Taiwan 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I gave a presentation at the Central Police University, Taiwan, to police cadets and some serving officers. The aim of the presentation, among other things, was to link 'internal' and 'external' procedural justice and the role of social identification. The talk was very well received, and has since been written up as an article in the Central Police University magazine, which is circulated to all police officers in Taiwan (see link).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://163.25.6.47/~dsa/107/200.pdf
 
Description Presentation at conference attended by police practitioners 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A presentation at the University of Akureyri, Iceland, Policing and Society conference. I gave a talk entitled 'A street corner education: Police stops and the moulding of normative values'. The audience was composed primarily of serving police officers and students on policing courses at the University (who will go on to become police officers). There were also international attendees from the US and elsewhere. The talk generated questions and discussion during and after the formal session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Stakeholder Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The purpose of the workshop was to bring together the academic and policing partners within the CONSIL project to co-design the planned research. Partners were reminded of the theoretical and operational rationales driving the project and asked to input into decisions around the targets of the research. This was followed bu discussions concerning what needs to be in place by way of actions in order to support the data gathering process. Initial decisions were made regarding the focus of observational data collection, and connections made with gatekeepers to areas of data collection. Plans for data collection were made between researchers and practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description The Psychologist publication 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A publication in 'The Psychologist' entitled 'from coercion to consent', highlighting the project, its funders, aims and theoretical bases.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-31/august-2018/coercion-consent