English title: Is Legitimacy Police Property
Author(s): Paul Ponsaers -
Type: Book chapter
This paper discusses the question whether or not the problem of legitimacy is one that the police themselves can manage. The answer to this question seems obvious: the police have a problem with their legitimacy and should consequently gain public trust and confidence by increasing their effectiveness. Contrary to this position, this paper defends the position that the police are not active agents in the construction on their own legitimacy. The paper begins with the classic Weberian sociological meaning of legitimacy by introducing the distinction between normative and empirical legitimacy. A remarkable geographical variability of empirical legitimacy is observed. The introduction of Community (Oriented) Policing is presented as a police strategy to raise the effectiveness of the police and consequently public confidence. Evaluation studies of COP do not give a satisfactory answer to this relationship. Next, the paper develops the point of view that causal factors for the geographical variability are to be found in structural and individual characteristics of the inhabitants of territorial aggregates. These characteristics are hardly influenced by police strategies or actions. Again the observation is made that the police are not active agents of change in the citizens’ institutional trust. Trust seems to be tied to variations in social mechanisms that are beyond the reach of the police. In this way, the circle is round. While police legitimacy is not police property, it are political decision makers who are responsible for the improvement of causal factors that influence public confidence, institutional trust, and ultimately police legitimacy.
From page no: 93
To page no: 110
Anthology: Trust and Legitimacy in Criminal Justice. European Perspectives