Procedural justice and legal compliance: A revisionist perspective

Daniel S. Nagin, Cody W. Telep

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    55 Scopus citations


    Research Summary: In 2017, we published an essay (Nagin & Telep, 2017) that challenged the widely held view that research had plausibly demonstrated that procedurally just treatment of citizens by police increased the citizen's willingness to comply with the law and thereby reduced crime rates. This article updates Nagin and Telep (2017) with new evidence that has appeared since its publication, while exploring in more depth our critiques of the existing procedural justice evidence base. Overall, we reach a similar conclusion concerning the impact of procedurally just treatment on crime but with the qualification that the rapid growth in the literature offers some encouraging evidence on the effectiveness of procedural justice training in affecting officer's attitudes and the effectiveness of community policing infused with elements of procedural justice in improving citizen perceptions of police. Research on body-worn cameras also provides indirect support that respectful police–citizen interactions have salutary impacts. We also set out a revisionist perspective on procedural justice that emphasizes the social value of procedural justice in its own right but also makes more modest predictions about impacts on legal compliance. Policy Implications: Our critical assessment of the evidence on the crime prevention efficacy of procedurally just treatment, and even more fundamentally our skepticism about whether procedurally just treatment will reduce mala in se crimes against person and property, does not, however, mean that procedural justice should be relegated to a secondary status in policy discussion about effective policing. To the contrary, as we have argued and continue to argue, procedurally just treatment of citizens has social value independent of its impact on crime. Yet those benefits are still to be demonstrated. Police executives should, therefore, be cognizant that the effectiveness of this approach to policing should be closely monitored.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)761-786
    Number of pages26
    JournalCriminology and Public Policy
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Public Administration
    • Law


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