Internal Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy




Boese, Michael

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Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT)



Police legitimacy is the power freely given by the people to law enforcement officials to enforce the laws and keep the general peace within a community. Legitimacy is based upon a relationship of trust between law enforcement and the community. The foundational principals of limited government established in the U.S. Constitution provide power to the people to choose the manner in which they are governed. The public’s perception of law enforcement can either increase or decrease police legitimacy. Procedural justice is directly related to legitimacy as fairness and equality in the criminal justice process further builds trust. Many police agencies understand this important concept; however, many fail to develop internal strategies that facilitate operational practices reflective of a commitment to further developing community trust. Recent events have continually demonstrated the ongoing divide between police agencies and the community in numerous cities. The discretionary individual behavior of each police officer can effectively shape the public’s perception about the entire police agency. Law enforcement leaders must empower individual officers to increase police legitimacy through procedural justice by developing transparent, fair, and equitable internal management practices and procedures. The impact of institutional fairness and organizational equity creates synergy as individual employees embrace procedural justice and internalize a commitment to justice and equity. When officers are treated with dignity and fairness in disciplinary systems they will demonstrate these positive organizational values to the community facilitating greater police trust and increasing police legitimacy.


Police ethics, Police community relations Police--Public Opinion