A multidimensional model of police legitimacy: A cross-cultural assessment

Justice Tankebe, Michael Reisig, Xia Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


This study used survey data from cross-sectional, university-based samples of young adults in different cultural settings (i.e., the United States and Ghana) to accomplish 2 main objectives: (1) to construct a 4-dimensional police legitimacy scale, and (2) to assess the relationship that police legitimacy and feelings of obligation to obey the police have with 2 outcome measures. The fit statistics for the second-order confirmatory factor models indicated that the 4-dimensional police legitimacy model is reasonably consistent with the data in both samples. Results from the linear regression analyses showed that the police legitimacy scale is related to cooperation with the police, and that the observed association is attenuated when the obligation to obey scale is included in the model specification in both the United States and Ghana data. A similar pattern emerged in the U.S. sample when estimating compliance with the law models. However, although police legitimacy was associated with compliance in the Ghana sample, this relationship along with the test statistic for the sense of obligation to obey estimate were both null in the fully saturated equation. The findings provide support for the Bottoms and Tankebe's (2012) argument that legitimacy is multidimensional, comprising police lawfulness, distributive fairness, procedural fairness, and effectiveness. However, the link between police legitimacy and social order appears to be culturally variable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-22
Number of pages12
JournalLaw and human behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Compliance
  • Cooperation
  • Lawfulness
  • Legitimacy
  • Procedural fairness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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