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The influence of procedural justice on citizen satisfaction with state law enforcement

Policing

Published online on

Abstract

Policing: An International Journal, Ahead of Print.
Purpose There are a number of individual and contextual variables that influence public opinion of the police but we know little about the public opinion regarding state law enforcement agencies. Prior studies involving municipal police and other criminal justice agencies indicate that the perceptions of procedural justice, or fair treatment, are important predictors of citizen satisfaction with police services. The purpose of this paper is to examine whether individuals who perceive procedurally just treatment during their contact with a state patrol officer improve the levels of satisfaction with the state patrol. Design/methodology/approach This paper presents the results of a public opinion study (n=846) regarding the Colorado State Patrol conducted in 2009. A subsample of 393 individuals who had contact with the state patrol and were further surveyed about their contact with the officer. Logistic regression models were used to examine individual- and contextual-level variables influence satisfaction with the state patrol and whether this relationship was mediated by the perceptions of procedural justice. Findings The authors found that individuals who perceive higher levels of procedural justice expressed higher satisfaction with the state patrol. Females, older respondents, and non-white respondents expressed greater satisfaction, as well as those who had voluntary contact or were not arrested. More importantly, procedural justice mediated the effect of involuntary contact and arrest on levels of satisfaction, and while non-white respondents were less likely to experience procedural justice, when levels of procedural justice are controlled for, they have higher levels of satisfaction. Originality/value The findings emphasize the significance of citizen perceptions of procedural justice during contacts with members of the state patrol. The current study contributes to our knowledge of procedural justice and citizen satisfaction with police encounters given previous research on citizen satisfaction with police focuses almost exclusively on local-level agencies, and research on procedural justice asks the respondents almost exclusively about the police in general.