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Citizen Oversight, Procedural Justice, and Officer Perceptions of the Complaint Investigation Process

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management Volume: 30 Issue: 4 Dated: 2007 Pages: 651-671
Joseph De Angelis; Aaron Kupchik
Date Published
21 pages
This study examined the procedural justice perspective applied to police officers facing sanctions for misbehavior.
The results support the importance of both procedural justice and perceived legitimacy by finding that both perspectives shape officers’ satisfaction more than the actual outcomes reached on their cases; attitudes toward oversight were not found to be related to satisfaction with the complaint process. Over the last 15 years, police oversight has focused a great deal of attention on the importance of the police complaint investigation process. Police unions have long argued that the creation of police oversight would undermine the morale of police officers and diminish trust in the complaint process. Yet the findings indicate that trust in citizen oversight is not a good predictor of satisfaction with the overall complaint process. While trust in command staff and internal affairs has positive direct and indirect effects on satisfaction with the process, trust in citizen oversight has no significant direct or indirect effect on process satisfaction. The analyses strongly support the importance of the procedural justice perspective, and demonstrate that this perspective is sufficiently flexible, giving insight into the views of a wide variety of individuals across very different social roles and circumstances. Also confirmed was the importance of perceptions of legitimate authority, as well as the demonstration of the flexibility of this perspective. The outcome on an officer’s case matters, though it only indirectly influences satisfaction with the overall process. Other factors such as rank, race/ethnicity, and the timeliness/quality of communication also influence the intervening variables and shape officers’ satisfaction with the complaint process. Race /ethnicity may be related to officer attitudes toward the complaint process. The data were collected through the anonymous mailed surveys to 373 police officers in a large urban police department. Future research efforts should examine how race/ethnicity may interact with views of procedural justice to influence officer perceptions for the complaint process. Tables, figure, notes, and references