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Legitimacy and Community Cooperation With Law Enforcement - NIJ Research for the Real World Seminar

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2009
12 pages
This video and transcript cover a presentation at the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Real World Seminar, in which Dr. Tom Tyler of the Psychology Department of New York University discusses police-community relationships and perceptions regarding these relationships.
Dr. Tyler develops two arguments. First, the way police exercise their authority is central to how people react to the police. Abuse and perceived unfairness in police interactions with individuals, particularly members of distinctive groups, will influence a community's generalizations about police. Second, if people perceive the police to be helpful, respectful, and fair, the public will willingly and voluntarily cooperate with the police. Dr. Tyler notes the racial gap in how community members interpret police interventions; whereas, the majority race tends to view the police positively, racial minorities, particularly Black Americans, tend to view police as being biased in the frequency and fairness of their interventions with minority individuals. Tyler's research on police profiling has found that people's perceptions of whether or not they are being profiled in a police stop depends on the person's preconceptions of police tendencies to focus on those with particular observable physical characteristics such as race and age. Tyler argues, however, that the most powerful factor in people's perceptions of police actions is how the police behave in a given interaction. If police are respectful in their language, attitudes, and explanations as to why a stop or intervention is being done, perceptions of profiling and bias are not as dominant in responses to police. Examples that strengthen this argument are provided.

Date Published: August 1, 2009