PROFILING AND POLICE LEGITIMACY: PROCEDURAL JUSTICE, ATTRIBUTIONS OF MOTIVE, AND ACCEPTANCE OF POLICE AUTHORITY*

Authors

  • TOM R. TYLER,

    1. Tom Tyler is a university professor at New York University in the psychology department and the law school. His research explores the dynamics of authority in groups, organizations and societies.
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  • CHERYL J. WAKSLAK

    1. Cheryl Wakslak is a graduate student in the psychology department at New York University.
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  • *

    This is paper is based on presentations to the Committee on Urban Initiatives at the 2001 American Psychological Association Convention (San Francisco: August 2001) and the 2002 Society of Personality and Social Psychology (Savannah, Georgia: February, 2002). The data in study 1 was collected with support from the National Science Foundation and the Public Policy Institute of California. The data in study 2 was provided by the ICPSR. The collection of the data in the fourth study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice (2001IJCX0029). Address correspondence to: Tom Tyler, Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, Room 579, New York, New York 10003. tom.tyler@nyu.edu.

ABSTRACT

This paper reports the results of four studies that investigate racial profiling as an attribution about police motives. Each study explores, first, the types of police behavior that heighten or lessen the occurrence of profiling attributions and, second, the consequences of such attributions. Results support prior studies in finding that judgments about whether the police are profiling are associated with the level of public support for the police. The studies then extend the analysis of subjective profiling judgments by examining their antecedents. The findings support the procedural justice hypothesis that the fairness with which the police exercise their authority influences whether members of the public view the police as profiling.

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