Research Hall, #161
June 25, 2014, 02:00 PM to 11:00 AM
Recent scholarship examining public perceptions of procedural justice, police legitimacy, and public cooperation with the police in the United States has found that concerns about fairness (normative considerations) tend to be more powerful predictors of citizen satisfaction with the police than concerns about the police’s capacity to reduce crime (instrumental considerations). Most of these studies have focused on differences in the views of Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics, while only a handful have examined the perspectives of different immigrant groups toward the police. To help fill this gap, especially at a time of significant growth in immigration, this dissertation investigates the relationship between procedural justice, police legitimacy, and willingness to cooperate with the police in a Ghanaian immigrant community in the United States.
This dissertation seeks to answer three questions: (1) Are the most common ways of conceptualizing and measuring perceived police legitimacy applicable in the Ghanaian immigrant community? (2) What are the relative effects of normative and instrumental models of policing on perceptions of the legitimacy of U.S. police in the Ghanaian immigrant community? (3) What are the relative effects of normative and instrumental models of policing on cooperation with the U.S. police in the Ghanaian immigrant community?
Quantitative survey data from a sample of 304 Ghanaian immigrants show that police performance (effectiveness) is the primary driver of both perceptions of police legitimacy and willingness to cooperate with the police in the Ghanaian immigrant community. These results suggest that instrumental concerns may be slightly more important than normative issues to this community. These results are generally supported by qualitative findings from two focus groups, but differ from the results of past research. In addition, both the quantitative and qualitative findings indicate that perceptions of the U.S. police are influenced by Ghanaian immigrants’ views of the legitimacy of police in their home country. This finding suggests that the quality of policing in immigrant communities across the United States might be improved if U.S. police departments serving these communities first attempt to understand how immigrants view the police in their native countries. Finally, the results indicate that common conceptualizations of perceived legitimacy may not be applicable for these respondents. As a result, scholars may need to refine the conceptualization and measurement of legitimacy in future research. The implications of these results for improving police–immigrant relations across the United States are discussed.