Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

Enhancing Public Trust and Police Legitimacy: Results from an RCT



Time to read

2 Minutes

Ben Bradford has a new paper out in the Journal of Experimental Criminology. Co-authored with Sarah MacQueen from the University of Edinburgh, ‘Enhancing public trust and police legitimacy during road traffic encounters: results from a randomised controlled trial in Scotland’ reports results from the Scottish Community Engagement Trial (ScotCET), the first large-scale Randomised Controlled Trials (RCT) of procedural justice to be conducted in the context of UK policing.

ScotCET was devised to replicate the Queensland Community Trial (QCET). Both studies examined the effects of ‘procedurally just’ policing on public trust and police legitimacy in the context of road traffic policing. Participants in ScotCET were drivers stopped by police in December and January 2013/14 as part of Police Scotland’s ‘Festive Road Safety Campaign.’ The experimental intervention comprised a checklist of key messages for officers to include in routine roadside vehicle stops, and a leaflet for them to give to drivers. Analysis explored whether this intervention had an effect on measures of trust, satisfaction, and legitimacy.

Contrary to expectations, trust in the officers who made the stop, and satisfaction with their conduct, fell in the test sites, relative to the control sites (where it was ‘business as usual’). The intervention had no significant effect on general trust in the police, nor on police legitimacy. ScotCET demonstrates the difficulty in translating experimental interventions across policing contexts, and challenges the notion that public perceptions may be improved through a simple, additive approach to the delivery and communication of procedural justice.