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Street Stops and Police Legitimacy: Teachable Moments in Young Urban Men's Legal Socialization

NCJ Number
Date Published
John R. Tyler, Jeffrey Fagan, Amanda Gellar
This study examined the influence of involuntary police stops on the involved young men’s views of and attitudes toward the legitimacy of police actions.
Based on its findings, the study concludes that the widespread use of police street stops undermines the acceptance of police legitimacy by the persons stopped. Lowered acceptance of police legitimacy, in turn, influences the individual’s willingness to obey the law and cooperate with legal authorities. The association between police street stops and the stopped individuals’ attitudes toward police legitimacy was not directly related to the number of street or car stops or the degree of police intrusion during the stops. Rather, the impact of the stop on the targeted individual’s view of police legitimacy was mediated by the individual’s view of whether the police were using their authority fairly and lawfully. The sense of fairness and lawfulness of the stops was, in turn, influenced by the number of stops or the degree of police intrusion during these stops. Similarly, judgments of justice and lawfulness mediated the estimated influence of judgments about the general character of police behavior in the community. A stratified random sample of young men ages 18-36 living in New York City were interviewed by phone about their history of contact with the New York Police Department, both lifetime and in the past year. Subjects were randomly sampled within neighborhoods. A total of 146 “neighborhood clusters” were defined using the 295 “neighborhoods” used by infoshare.org and formerly used by the New York City Department of City Planning. Forty neighborhoods were selected, with an over-sampling of neighborhoods with the highest police stop rates. Samples of a minimum of 25 respondents were recruited within each neighborhood. Variables and measures used in the interviews are explained. 7 tables, 2 figures, 48 references, and 7 cited legal cases
Date Created: June 4, 2014