4. Fear and legitimacy in São Paulo, Brazil: police-citizen relations in a high violence, high fear city

Authors: Jon Jackson, Krisztián Pósch, Thiago R. Oliveira, Ben Bradford, Silvia Camões, Ariadne Natal, & André Zanetic.

Conditionally accepted at Law & Society Review.

See abstract Abstract: We examine consensual and coercive police-citizen relations in São Paulo, Brazil. According to procedural justice theory, legitimacy operates as part of a virtuous circle, whereby normatively appropriate police behavior encourages people to self-regulate, which then reduces the need for coercive forms of social control. But can consensual and coercive police-citizen policiesbe so easily disentangled in a city in which many people fear crime, where some people fear policebut tolerate extreme police violence, and where the image of the police as “just another (violent) gang ”has significant cultural currency? Legitimacy has two components — the right to power and the authority to govern — and consistent with prior work from the US, UK and Australia, we find that procedural justice is the stronger predictor of the perceived right to power. Yet, the empirical link between legitimacy and legal compliance is complicated by fear of police and different motives to obey and disobey the police. Our modelling of the predictors of self-reported legal compliance finds that criminal behavior is highest among people who fear police, believe that officers act in inappropriate ways, and feel either no obligation to obey their commands or an instrumental obligation to obey the police. Implications of these findings are discussed.

Manuscript available on SocArXiv.


3. Are trustworthiness and legitimacy ‘hard to win, easy to lose’? A longitudinal test of the asymmetry thesis of police-citizen contact

Authors: Thiago R. Oliveira, Jon Jackson, Kristina Murphy, & Ben Bradford.

Published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 2020.

See abstract Objectives: Test the asymmetry thesis of police-citizen contact that police trustworthiness and legitimacy are affected more by negative than by positive experiences of interactions with legal agents by analyzing changes in attitudes towards the police after an encounter with the police. Test whether prior attitudes moderate the impact of contact on changes in attitudes towards the police.
Methods: A two-wave panel survey of a nationally representative sample of Australian adults measured people’s beliefs about police trustworthiness (procedural fairness and effectiveness), their duty to obey the police, their contact with the police between the two waves, and their evaluation of those encounters in terms of process and outcome. Analysis is carried out using autoregressive structural equation modeling and latent moderated structural models.
Results: The association between both process and outcome evaluation of police-citizen encounters and changes in attitudes towards the police is asymmetrical for trust in police effectiveness, symmetrical for trust in procedural fairness, and asymmetrical (in the opposite direction expected) for duty to obey the police. Little evidence of heterogeneity in the association between encounters and trust in procedural fairness and duty to obey, but prior levels of perceived effectiveness moderate the association between outcome evaluation and changes in trust in police effectiveness.
Conclusions: The association between police-citizen encounters and attitudes towards the police may not be as asymmetrical as previously thought, particularly for changes in trust in procedural fairness and legitimacy. Policy implications include considering public-police interactions as ‘teachable moments’ and potential sources for enhancing police trustworthiness and legitimacy.

Recommended citation: Oliveira, Thiago R.; Jackson, Jonathan; Murphy, Kristina; Bradford, Ben. (2020). Are trustworthiness and legitimacy ‘hard to win, easy to lose’? A longitudinal test of the asymmetry thesis of police-citizen contact. Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

Find paper here.

Replication materials here.

2. Police legitimacy and the norm to cooperate: using a mixed effects location scale model to estimate the strength of social norms at a small spatial scale

Authors: Jon Jackson, Ian Bruton-Smith, Ben Bradford, Thiago R. Oliveira, Krisztián Pósch, & Patrick Sturgis.

Published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 2020.

See abstract Abstract.
Objectives: Test whethercooperation with the police can be modelledas aplace-based norm that varies in strength from one neighborhoodto the next. Estimatewhetherperceived police legitimacy predictsan individual’s willingness to cooperate in weak-norm neighborhoods,but not in strong-norm neighborhoodswhere most people are either willing or unwilling to cooperate, irrespective of their perceptions of police legitimacy.
Methods: A survey of 1,057individuals in 98 relatively high-crime English neighborhoodsdefined at a small spatial scalemeasured(a) willingness to cooperate using a hypothetical crime vignetteand (b) legitimacy using indicators of normative alignmentbetween police and citizen values. A mixed-effects,location-scale model estimatedthe cluster-level mean and cluster-level variance of willingness to cooperateas a neighborhood-level latent variable. A cross-level interaction testedwhether legitimacy predicts individual-level willingness to cooperateonly in neighborhoods where the norm is weak.
Results:Willingness to cooperate clusteredstrongly by neighborhood. Therewere neighborhoods with (i) high meanand low variance, (ii) high meanand high variance, (iii) (relatively) low meanand low variance, and (iv) (relatively) low meanand high variance. Legitimacy was only a positive predictor of cooperation in neighborhoods that had a (relatively) low mean and high variance. There was little variance left to explain in neighborhoods where the norm was strong.
Conclusions: Findingssupporta boundary condition of procedural justice theory: namely, that cooperationcan be modelled asa place-based norm that variesin strengthfrom neighborhoodto neighborhoodand that legitimacy only predicts an individual’s willingness to cooperate in neighborhoods wherethe norm is relatively weak.

Recommended citation: Jackson, Jonathan; Brunton-Smith, Ian; Bradford, Ben; Oliveira, Thiago R.; Posch, Krisztian; Sturgis, Patrick. (2020). Police legitimacy and the norm to cooperate: using a mixed effects location scale model to estimate the strength of social norms at a small spatial scale. Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

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1. Juvenile Sentencing: A Mixed-Methods Approach

Published in Brazilian Political Science Review, 2019

See abstract Abstract: How do socially relevant attributes influence juvenile criminal sentencing? While judicial decisions should, in principle, be fully based on legally relevant factors such as the seriousness of the offense and the defendant’s criminal record, I ask whether and how extralegal characteristics related to the adolescent’s position in structural relations affect the decision-making process. I propose a mixed-methods design to study mechanisms of criminal sentencing. Using data from a representative sample of the São Paulo juvenile justice system records, I estimate mixed-effects logistic models to assess the probability of being sentenced to confinement given certain extralegal attributes, while controlling for legally relevant variables. Interaction effects show that adolescents registered as full-time students and classified as drug users are more likely to be sentenced to confinement than their counterparts, even when the arraignment is the same. The second step involved weekly visits to the juvenile courthouse in São Paulo over four months to observe judicial hearings. Prosecutors are central to the decision-making process. The standard decision-making mechanism is based on police documents and legally relevant information. When there is a rupture in the definition of the situation (usually when non-minority defendants enter the courtroom), a new mechanism emerges and more lenient decisions are made.

Recommended citation: Oliveira, Thiago R. (2019). Juvenile sentencing: a mixed-methods approach. Brazilian Political Science Review. 13(1).

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Replication materials here.