Racial Reconciliation, Truth-Telling, and Police Legitimacy

This report discusses issues raised at an executive session hosted by the COPS Office and the National Network for Safe Communities in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2012. It gives police executives the chance to hear from their own colleagues on why engaging in the process of racial reconciliation is not only morally but also functionally and operationally critical. The concepts of police legitimacy, legal cynicism, and informal social control introduced here provide the theoretical underpinning that helps to explain in practical terms how police who actively and sincerely engage with communities of color will find they can do their job better and more effectively. Citizens are more likely to obey the law, cooperate with the police, believe in the legitimacy of the formal justice system, and set internal community norms that reinforce lawful behavior. This collectively results in achieving the primary goals of law enforcement: reducing violence, decreasing fear of crime, and increasing quality of life.


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