Objective: Although researchers, policymakers, and practitioners recognize the importance of the public’s perceptions of police, few studies have examined developmental trends in adolescents and young adults’ views of police. Hypotheses: Hypothesis 1: Perceptions of police legitimacy would exhibit a Ushaped curve, declining in adolescence before improving in young adulthood. Hypothesis 2: At all ages, Black youth would report more negative perceptions of police legitimacy than Latino youth, who would report more negative perceptions than White youth. Hypothesis 3: Perceptions of police bias would be consistently associated with worse perceptions of police legitimacy. Method: Utilizing longitudinal data from the Crossroads Study, this study examined within-person trends in males’ perceptions of police legitimacy from ages 13 to 22, as well as whether perceptions of police bias were associated with perceptions of police legitimacy. Results: Perceptions of police legitimacy followed a U-shaped curve that declined during adolescence, reached its lowest point around age 18, and improved during the transition to young adulthood. Compared with White youth, Latino and Black youth had shallower curves in perceptions of police legitimacy that exhibited less improvement during the transition to adulthood. Further, perceptions of police bias were consistently associated with more negative perceptions of police legitimacy across races and ages. Conclusions: While perceptions of police legitimacy may decline during adolescence before improving during the transition to adulthood, perceptions of police bias are consistently negatively related to youth and young adults’ perceptions of police legitimacy.
- Perceptions of police
- Police bias
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Psychiatry and Mental health