Don't Jump the Shark: Understanding Deterrence and Legitimacy in the Architecture of Law Enforcement
Deterrence theory dominates the American understanding of how to regulate criminal behavior but social psychologists' research shows that people comply for reasons that have nothing to do with fear of punishment; they have to do with values, fair procedures and how people connect with one another. Professor Meares discussed the relevance of social psychologists' emerging theory to legal theory and practice and how deterrence and emerging social psychology theories intertwine. She described her own research in urban police departments where she has attempted to integrate the findings from social psychology with deterrence and violence reduction strategies.
John Laub: Good afternoon. We'd like to get started if we could. I want to welcome you all to today's seminar, NIJ's “Research for the Real World” seminar series. My name is John Laub and I'm the director of the National Institute of Justice. I want to thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedules to join us this afternoon.
Today's presentation, as you can see, has a catchy title, unusual title: “Don't Jump the Shark: Understanding Deterrence and Legitimacy in the Architecture of Law Enforcement,” and I think that it shows that titles are important, titles matter, so I appreciate the care that went into this one and I'm eager to learn what it actually means. So I'm pleased to welcome Professor Tracey Meares, who is the speaker today. Tracey is going to be talking about how social psychology and legal theories intertwine to give us new insight on law conformity. She will also describe her own action-oriented research in urban police departments and how she's integrated social psychology with deterrence and violence reduction strategies.
It's now my pleasure to introduce our speaker. Professor Tracey Meares is deputy dean and the Walton Hale Hamilton professor at Yale Law School. She received her B.S. degree in general engineering from the University of Illinois, my alma mater, and her J.D. from University of Chicago Law School. Upon graduation, Professor Meares clerked for judge Harlington Wood, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She then served as an honors program trial attorney in the antitrust division of the United States Department of Justice before joining the University of Chicago Law faculty in 1994.
Tracey and I were talking about when I first met her, and it was right around that time. I feel I know her through connections that I have with Professor Robert Sampson, Professor Jeffrey Fagan, so she came validated, so to speak, in my life. Tracey has been at Yale since 2000 … 2007, thank you — and her research and teaching interests center on criminal procedure and criminal law policy with particular emphasis on the empirical investigation of these subjects. She has an impressive CV and has published extensively, and I will say it's one of the persons that I like to read because I feel I always learn something, and with that I'd like to welcome Professor Tracey Meares.
Tracey Meares: Good afternoon. Thanks for coming. I'm not sure which one of these microphones are on. I've got two and at some point I'm going to step away from the podium so hopefully either one of them will be working or you'll just be able to hear me anyway.
OK. I'm a law professor and we teach Socratically, so the first thing I'm going to do is ask a question and then see if anybody volunteers an answer. And that question is, who watched “Happy Days” when they were a kid? Come on. Get those hands up. OK. So anybody who watched “Happy Days” knows what “don't jump the shark” is, right? This phrase — and if you don't I'm about to tell you — this phrase refers to the waning years of “Happy Days,” when in an attempt to get people to watch the show, the producers of the show came up with this crazy idea that they were going to have Fonz jump a shark in this amazing sort of feat, and that was going to draw viewers to the show. Well, it didn't work.
And so there are two reasons for using this title. That's one of them. What I mean to do by saying “don't jump the shark” is to invoke this idea that when the time is gone for a good idea, it's time to let it go. And the suggestion that I want to offer here is that an emphasis on deterrence in law enforcement has had a good run, but it's time to let it go. And in its place I want to suggest that ideas of legitimacy and procedural justice are the theoretical constructs we should look to in thinking about how to shape law enforcement, and this is also the reason why I'm talking about the architecture of law enforcement, because it's not just about particular policies, it's about how people engage … people who are law enforcement engage with people who aren't, and particular interactions in terms of policy and also in terms of what I will call, at least for the purposes of this talk, the built environment of law enforcement. OK.
So to begin, in order to understand legitimacy, I think one has to begin by thinking about what it's not, and what I'm going to say that it's not is lawfulness, and here's the reason why you want to start there. Police are creatures of law; that law authorizes and circumscribes and shapes police activity is actually what distinguishes them from vigilantes. Police compliance with the law is one of the most important aspects of democratic society, and the public expects police officers to enforce laws fairly according to law and rules that limit their power.
Now, the very existence of these rules of law justify the claim that police are a rule-bound institution engaged in the pursuit of justice, protection of individual liberties, and, importantly, battles against crime. Now, this truth about police, that they are a rule-bound institution constrained by law, is so basic that it limits our ability to remedy long-standing and problematic police conduct, especially in everyday policing and especially in contexts that are deemed to be negatively racialized.
And that's what I'm going to explain today, and I'm going to do it in three ways. First, I'm going to talk about police stops. I'm going to make some references to the very pervasive stops that some of you may have heard about happening in New York; you're just a little bit further down from New York, but I'm sure that's made the news here, too. I'm then going to turn to the concept of racial profiling related to this to help motivate this understanding of the distinction of deterrence on the one hand and legitimacy on the other. And then finally, in the last half of my presentation, I'm going to talk about how I've taken these ideas down to the ground to implement some violence-reduction strategies in Chicago and I'm going to show you the ways in which I think that implementing legitimacy in the architecture of your policy has really big payoff.
All right, so lawfulness is — when we are faced with what appears to be the over-exercise of state power in the form of stops and arrests, so I'm now referring to what's happening in New York, many will argue, people who worry about this, as in the case of New York City, many move to the domain of law and describe the problem as a legal one. And in doing so, what we do is we typically describe the issue in terms of constitutional law, and so then what we do is we try to remedy the problem with the same set of tools; that is, the architecture of law and rights.
Now, it may well be that a legal valance is the best way to describe what's problematic about what's going on in New York City; you know, I don't want to make a conclusion about that here, but I'm going to suggest that there's another valence that's helpful, and I'm going to show you a construct that will help you to think about it.
So here we go. Lawfulness, what is it? We want police to be as lawful as possible. We want them to abide by the rules that authorize their behavior. That is, if a police officer is going to arrest someone, they can't unless there's a criminal law that says that whatever conduct the person is engaged in is prohibited. We expect them to conform with the regulatory rules of the agency, the administrative rules. That would be the standard operating procedures, the general orders of the agency. And we also expect policing agencies to conform with constitutional law, right? The Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment, those provide minimal floors for their engagement with individuals. And if we think about it in that way, we could say something like, “If police are as lawful as they could possibly be, they're headed east, and if they're not, it's west.” So I'm trading here on the wild, wild west as unlawful and, well, you guys are on the East Coast so I just made it that way — east, lawful.
So here we go. We've got these different kinds of legal constraints that I just mentioned; laws and ordinances activate behavior; rules and regulations can activate limit conduct; court rulings and decisions provide legal limits and usually protect individual rights.
Now, going back to the idea of a police stop, usually what we're thinking about there is the interaction of at least two kinds of law, the actual rules and laws that will let a police officer know that what conduct a person is engaged in is criminal so that that person has reasonable suspicion to believe that the person that stopped is engaging in it, and then some set of constitutional laws are relevant.
Now, it's important to understand, though, that stops can be costly, even when they are lawful and constitutional. People don't automatically approve of a stop just because a police officer is legally entitled to make it. People typically care — and I'm going to explain this in more detail — much more about how they're treated by legal agents then they care about the particular outcome of the contact; that is, whether they are arrested or not. And this may sound a little bit counterintuitive, but it's not. Research shows that people care about being treated with dignity and respect. And when encountering police agents, they typically look for behavioral signals that allow them to assess whether the officer's decision to arrest them was made accurately and without bias.
Now, in this slide, I have set these up as if they're at right angles to one another. Of course, if you think about it, that's probably not true. If I were better at making PowerPoints, maybe I'd do something like this, to the extent that an officer's conduct is lawful, people will tend to think that it's more legitimate or not, but importantly, what you've got to see is that it's easily possible for conduct to be lawful and not perceived by people to be procedurally just and therefore legitimate. So what do people care about?
Here's the concept of legitimacy that I'm working on. Legitimacy, and this is a concept that's been developed by social psychologists and in particular my co-author and good friend Tom Tyler, the belief that police are trustworthy, honest and concerned about the well being of the people that they deal with, and when this is true, that police authority ought to be accepted. People should voluntarily accept police decisions and follow police directives, and they should comply with the law and cooperate with the police. That's legitimacy.
What leads to legitimacy? These two ideas: quality of decision making — if you can't read it, that would be the blue bar — and quality of treatment.
The yellow bar is outcome favorability, so let me back up a little bit. You might think that the way people evaluate their encounter with a police officer will depend on what happens to them. So I could ask you, “Well, if you were arrested yesterday or if you were stopped, how did you feel about that encounter?” And some people who think that outcome favorability is the only thing that will matter will say, “Well, obviously awful. You were arrested. That was a bad outcome.” What social psychologists have shown, though, is that even when there are bad outcomes, people can feel very good about these encounters if they can be confident of the quality of decision making and the quality of how they were treated. So what this graph is is some research that Tom has done in Oakland, California, showing the relative weights of whether the citizen would voluntarily accept a police decision on this basis.
Now, let me say a little bit about why this matters, why procedural justice matters. If you think that what people care about ultimately is status — that is, how people in their group, however they're going to define that group, views them, on the one hand, and also how they think an evaluator like a police officer evaluates their group in particular — then you can see why these indicators might matter a lot.
People are constantly looking for information about — in any particular encounter — how someone in authority thinks about them and how someone in authority thinks about their group. Tom Tyler calls this the group value theory of decision making, and he says that if you look to quality of decision making, are law enforcers, people in authority, giving the person that they're interacting with information about whether the decision was made fairly and neutrally without bias, and these are usually cues in the context of the interaction, not in terms of evaluations of outcomes over time, so I'm not talking about a distributional measure. I'm talking about signals that the person is giving you as you are interacting with them.
So they care about that. And then they also care about whether you're being respectful. Why? Because when that happens, I can tell as a person who's having this interaction with a law enforcer that they think that I'm a person who counts, and they think that people in my group are people who count. So ultimately what matters — and I'm going to say this slowly because it's a little complicated — what matters is whether I think that you as a police officer think that I count. Whether I think that you think I count. This is true even if you don't. But what matters is my perception.
If those things are true, if you've got lawfulness on the one hand and legitimacy on the other, then what you should want is to be as lawful as possible and as legitimate as possible. Where you don't want to be is in the Southwest, pick your state; where you do want to be is in the Northeast.
And then where the interesting place is, are in the off diagonals. So I'm going to suggest that one way to understand what's problematic about racial profiling, or what people say is racial profiling, is with reference to these two valences. Now, just to repeat quickly, perceptions of good treatment and fairness are the foundations of procedural justice. This matters a huge amount in civil society. There's years, pages, volumes of research in social psychology demonstrating this fact, and the research also shows that not only does this matter to people, but when it's present they are more likely to voluntarily obey the law.
So this means, of course, that procedural justice can help law enforcement agencies fight crime. Now, what does deterrence have to do with this? Deterrence, of course, is a completely different concept of compliance and to get at that, you can ask the question, as Tom does in the title of his 1990 book, which was reissued in 2006. Why do people obey the law? Do they obey the law because they fear the consequences of failing to do so? That's deterrence. Or do they obey the law because they think it's the right thing to do, or because they think that law enforcers, people in positions of authority, have the right to dictate to them proper behavior?
If you think the latter, I want to pause for a second. Notice that a belief that you are obeying the law because you think it's the right thing to do is a little bit different from obeying the law because you think that some enforcer has the right to tell you what to do, because they could have the right to tell you something to do that you don't think is the right thing to do, so that's the distinction there.
But even to the extent that those two ideas are different, they are fundamentally different from this idea that you're obeying because you fear the consequences of failing to do so. The legitimacy ideas are these two ideas about obeying the law because you think it's the right thing to do, or because you think that law enforcers have the right to dictate to you proper behavior. Deterrence is the idea that you are going to obey the law because you fear the consequences of failing to do so.
And what we have done over the past 20 years or so is really invest in deterrence, and deterrence of a particular kind, a deterrence that leans very heavily on formal sanctions. And notice, deterrence doesn't have to be about that. It could be about informal sanctions. It could be about shame. It could be that I don't want to be an idiot because my good friend Daphne Felten-Green will talk about me to other people we know from law school. That's deterrence, too. But what it's not is a kind of internalized voluntary compliance, which is the engine behind legitimacy.
Now, why does this matter? It matters because deterrence is very expensive. And to see that, consider New York again. Now, New York City, one story behind the crime drop in New York City is a very heavy investment in lots and lots of cops. There are more cops per square inch, per person, in New York than anywhere else. It's the largest police force in the country. Chicago is second, but it just dwarfs Chicago in absolute numbers, but also in terms of density. Manhattan, you know, tiny; those of you who are from Chicago know, big, spread-out city. Go to L.A., which I think is third, and the density factor, it's not there. So it's even hard to think about comparing these ideas.
It might be that New York achieved a crime drop by investing in lots of police, by basically having a cop standing on every corner waiting in the ready to catch somebody when they break the law or are thinking about breaking the law. That's a way of thinking about achieving crime reduction. But if you believe that people obey just because you can threaten sanctions and you'll follow through, then for every point of crime reduction that you want to achieve, you have to put more money behind it because you believe that people aren't going to obey the law otherwise.
That's not what's going on with the legitimacy idea, about which I'll say more in a second. One more thought, just to help motivate this, because why not beat the horse until it's dead: If you're driving home late at night after work, after working until 2 or 3 in the morning on some project that John has given you and you are so enthusiastic about. It's late, 2, 3 in the morning. The streets are empty. There's no one around and you come upon a red light. Do you stop? And if you do, why? There's no one there. There's no cop. There's not even your grandmother who's going to jump out and say, “I taught you better than that.” That's not happening. Why are you stopping? I submit that the reason why you're stopping is because you think that the law that requires you to stop is valid and you do it. Turns out that even crooks do it. Most people obey the law most of the time, and the insights that I'm trying to share with you today is to say that our law enforcement policy ought to be organized around harnessing what we know to be true rather than its opposite.
OK. Back to our regularly scheduled programming. Racial profiling, I want to argue, resides in the lower right-hand quadrant of my schematic. Now why would that be?
Little cartoon for a little break; you can't read it. This is from The New Yorker. It says, “You look like the sketch of someone who's thinking about committing a crime.” Now, this example is a way that many people conceptualize racial profiling. If you ask a lawyer what is racial profiling, most lawyers will say, “Well, it's conduct, it's contact that a person has with a police officer that's illegal because it's motivated by that person's race. And the problem is that it's illegal.”
Here's some things you can read while I talk.
So this gets back to this idea that if you think that the problem is a legal one, then the way you want to remedy it is by meeting it with the architecture of rights. The answer, of course, must be to think about how one would remedy the violation of Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, so on or so forth.
The procedural justice view is different and one way to see that is to think about the incident involving Henry Louis Gates. Now, I should say by way of disclaimer, there was a committee commissioned that the city of Cambridge engaged — it was a national commission — to evaluate the arrest and make the report, and I was a member of that commission, so I do have some inside knowledge, but this stuff that you see here comes from our report so it's all public.
Now, the thing to remember about this incident is the reason why Sergeant Crowley was at Professor Gates' door is because a police dispatch called him there. There was a report by a neighbor that someone was breaking into the house and Sergeant Crowley was dispatched to the house to investigate. So it wasn't as if he was roving in the neighborhood and decided on his own to go to the house and investigate. After he gets there, he sees Professor Gates, things happen, you've read about them in the news.
Now, what I want you to pay attention to is what Gates said, because if you think about what I just said, you couldn't say that the reason for their encounter was motivated by race. It had nothing to do with that. He was dispatched there by a police dispatcher on report of a crime, so if you're looking at east to west, it looks pretty east. But things happen once they were there and one of the things that happens is Professor Gates says he keeps asking for Sergeant Crowley's name and badge number but Sergeant Crowley never responds, he just sort of stands there and looks at him woodenly and Gates says, and I have this in bold, “The silence was deafening.” Then he even says to the officer, “You're not responding because I'm black and you're white.” And you know Sergeant Crowley still says nothing.
And then other things happened, as you've read about in the news, and Professor Gates ends up being arrested, but if you ask him if he was profiled, he'll say, “Yes. I was treated differently in the encounter,” and he's not talking about the arrest, he's talking about this. That Crowley dissed him, didn't talk to him, wasn't polite, didn't ask him how he was. “How are you doing today, sir?” He didn't do that, and he was really upset by it.
This is a structure of what happens. You have a belief that police are being unfair, that profiling is occurring; you conclude that the police aren't legitimate; and then there's hostility, defiance, resistance, unwillingness to accept. If you go back to here, you'll see that often racial profiling — contacts where people will say at the end of the day that they were racially profiled — a lot of the times, I'm not going to say every time, a lot of the times have to do with situations where the police behavior is lawful under ordinary understandings of constitutional law, but not procedurally just in the way that I've talked about it, which means, if this is true, that you can never remedy, or it's very difficult to remedy racial profiling through a legal construct. You have to remedy it by heading north, right? Not by heading east.
OK, now, final thing I want to say about this before I head to the second half of the talk, which is my work in Chicago, is that these ideas suggest, as I said, an architecture of encounters, that it's possible for you to do something that's completely lawful that's interpreted by the person that you're encountering — by “you” I mean a police officer — in ways that you don't expect. So one of the things that only relying on the lawfulness dimension does is it means that one person is right and one person is wrong. If the police officer's behavior is lawful, then that means that the person they're encountering, by definition, is wrong because police can only stop someone, arrest someone, when that person … when they are constitutionally authorized to engage them on the basis of their wrongful behavior. The value of adding the legitimacy spectrum and giving you two dimensions means that both people can be right. The police officer can be right, and the person stopped can also be right and say, “The way you have treated me is not OK despite its legality.”
Now one more thing …
To show you how people interpret things. When you look at this picture, what do you see? Is it a happy scene? Is it a sad scene? Is it a scary scene? Calm? Threatening? OK. What if I add a little something? I'm going to suggest that your ability to see this as calm is going to depend a lot on the background that you hear, and these ideas of legitimacy and procedural justice are often a background condition that helps people interpret what's going on.
A few technical difficulties here. [“Jaws”theme plays. Audience laughter.]
Now, your ability to see this as calm was dependent on no background music. [Music continues.] But I'm giving you the background music. This is [inaudible] and this is the music that depends on an architecture of threat, it depends on an architecture of sanction, it depends on law enforcement agents conveying to you that you had better obey or else.
What if I change it? [Music cuts off.]
It could be different. [Pachelbel's “Canon in D” plays.] It could be calming. It could be reassuring. It could be behavior and conduct that creates attachment between the public and law enforcement agents because it's really ultimately what the procedural justice context is about, right? It's about engaging in conduct that allows people to rely on the benevolence and future benevolence of law enforcement agents. It's about conduct that causes people to believe that people are being [inaudible] fair. It's about causing people to believe that you as a law enforcement agent, somebody who's in power, will treat them as somebody who counts as a citizen, and what it means to be a citizen is that we're all in this together, right? And we all have shared responsibility and obligation to produce a society that's safe. All right. [Music cuts off.]
How do you motivate this in practice?
Here's what I've done in Chicago. Now, we started in 2002 to deal with some violence reduction as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, which I'm sure some of you in this room, if not all of you, have heard of. And at the time, the administration in power was very much interested in gun crime reduction using a particular strategy …
Emphasizing federal prosecution. The idea was that if you target people who had had guns in the past, then those are the people who are most likely to be involved in crime, so we should prosecute them first if they have guns and thereby persuade them not to carry guns in the future. What does that sound like? That's a classic deterrent strategy, right? More federal prosecution, more federal sentences, which could be deterrents but also incapacitation since sentences were longer.
Firearms policing in Chicago, getting guns off the street in Chicago, every year we get about between 12 and 13,000 guns off the street in a year.
And then these offender notification meetings. This is the key that I want to focus on now.
When we first started talking about in Chicago, Pat Fitzgerald, who's the U.S. attorney, said, “Well, I want to do the federal prosecutions like they did in Richmond, Project Exile.” I said, “OK. Pat, that sounds great, but look. There's no reason to think that your target population is going to know what you're doing. Why do you think they're going to know what you're doing?” He says, “Well, we're the feds! Everybody knows what we're doing.” And I was like, “Well, not your population. They're used to going to 26 and California” — that's the state's attorney's office. In fact, we subsequently did a survey of about 300 gun offenders in Chicago who had, which I'll show you, negative opinions of the police, pretty positive opinions of the state's attorney, absolutely no opinion of the federal prosecutors because they don't engage them, so this is not surprising.
So I said, “Look, here's what we should do. We should have forums” — and this was modeled loosely after the Boston Ceasefire project — “where we bring them in, tell them what the federal penalties are. We could do some other things at least to notify them and make sure that they know what's going on. That would be deterrence. People should know what the penalties are in order to ensure that they're going to avoid them.” The little trick, though, is once we decided to do that, I added some architectural features into the meeting.
OK, so here's what we did. We have the forums that are one-hour meetings with active gun offenders. They're recently released to parole and probation, they had to have a prior violent offense or gun offense, lived in our target community, which is the high-crime west side of Chicago, and they possibly had gang membership, not all of them. So the idea, as I said, was to let them know what the penalties are, but also to let them know of what their life could look like if they turned away from crime.
So we had three sets of presentations. First, the law enforcement message. “You're a convicted felon. You can't have a gun. This is what's going to happen to you.” Second, we had an ex-offender message. To those of you who grew up in the black church like I did, I like to call this the testimony part of the meeting. This is the part where the ex-offender basically says, “This is my life. I've changed. You can do it. I did it.” And then there's a community message: “Here's how you do it.” These are basically service providers from these offenders' own neighborhoods who told them what services were available — drug treatment, GED, work training, so on and so forth.
So here's some examples of what it looked like. Oh wait, one more slide before that. Actually, this is the important part of it. This is the architecture part, 'cause then you're like, “Where's the legitimacy piece of this?” Some of it is in the fact that there's both information about the sanctions but also the information about how you can change your life. But the architecture of the room was key. So the room was not set up like this where there would be speakers who come talk to people in a group. In fact, it was set up in what we call the urban league style, in a roundtable style. Why? Because if you were sitting down with speakers at a table, first of all, you're all on the same plane, there's no hierarchy. Right now I am standing up in front of you, you are sitting down, you are feeling forced to listen to me. We didn't want people to feel that way. We wanted it to be equals. Why? Legitimacy theory says what you want to do is convey a message that you are somebody who counts in my eyes. And it's hard to do that when someone is standing up over you as opposed to when you're sitting down at the table. One.
Second, we wanted to have mutual accountability. If I am sitting down at a table talking to you, you are looking at me, you're not sort of falling asleep in the back of the room. You can't, because we're all sitting here around the table talking to one another.
Third. Because there's sort of no, theoretically, no table head, if it's really a round table there's nobody who's in charge — that's not really the way it turned out but that was the theory — then everybody is equal in that way. And finally, we didn't have it in an official room with flags and stuff like this. Why? Flags are the shark music. [Audience laughter.] Don't want any shark music. What you want are clues, cues to people, that this is a place where they are valued. We had it in libraries. We had it in Chicago, as John knows well, there are a number of old beautiful parks that are lovely places. We did it in Garfield Park when the Chihuly exhibit was there. It was a beautiful place that everybody would want to be in. It's a place of civic importance. The idea is that you are returning citizens; this is a place to which you have access. Join us as a new citizen in this place as we coproduce safety in the community.
OK. Here are some of the messages. Police commander message — I really like this one. [Silence.]
“You're only going to be targeted if you pick up a gun, so you have a choice right? So, if you get angry, pick up a shoe and beat someone with it because you probably won't kill them and you won't have to worry about us . . . It's when you pick up a gun that you have a problem.”
At some point somebody laughs and I know why, because they've gotten to the part that says, “So if you get angry, pick up a shoe and beat someone with it.” Now, why is the police commander saying this? Because this was a message about guns. It's targeted. Just put down your guns. Stop the violence. No claim here that you just have to stop committing crime. Because if you do that, you're going to lose. I can say more about that in the question and answer period. So that's one.
Here's a state's attorney's message. [Silence.]
“We don't' want to see you again, because, if we do, it'll either be on a piece of paper as someone who picked up a gun, or as a victim. Go out and be producers. Don't destroy the community anymore.”
Right, so you'll see, they're saying, “Here's what's going to happen,” but also being encouraging. Go out, be producers, don't destroy the community. A lot of the legitimacy message is about activating agency because the idea of voluntary compliance is that you do it yourself. You're not going to be made to do it because I'm holding a club over your head. You have to decide to choose to obey the law and it turns out that most people do.
Here's the ex-offender's message.
“There's a saying, “Change is a choice, but accountability is a guarantee.' They [pointing to police] are sitting here and telling you they [are] coming after you. Gonna hold you accountable. Now, I don't mean no disrespect, but if you ain't listening, you got to be a fool . . I changed. It was a choice, a real hard one. But I did it. . . .Once you change your life around, you'll have a whole world of new respect for yourself and others.”
This is the second part of it. I really like this one. It's very representative. “Change is a choice but accountability is a guarantee.” So he's saying to the young men in the room — usually almost always young men — you have to decide to do this. The guarantee is that we're going to hold you to account if you pick up the gun, and this is why you can't say, “Stop committing crime.” That is not a guarantee that the police and the state attorney could follow through on, and everybody knew it. They're not going to get every single crime that these guys engage in. They did feel like they could make a pretty strong guarantee that they could follow up on any gun crime, cause they were devoting a lot of resources to that.
And the final message, of course, was the service providers who said, “We've got drug treatment, we've got GEDs,” so on and so forth. I think I've got about 10 minutes.
So I'm going to give you a little information on how we know it works. I'll go through this relatively quickly because I've written a lot about it and if you would like citations, I'll give you the paper. The two papers on which this is based, one of them was published in theJournal of Empirical Legal Studies and then the second paper is actually just submitted for publication.
Now, the PSN area is the west side of Chicago. Our control area was the south side of Chicago. And then we had the rest of the city. We had a pretty fancy statistical design where we accounted for prior crime, and basically to assess the drop in crime for the affected areas, we did, we used to design called a growth model where you allow each individual police beat to vary, and then we also compared the variation between the police beats. The reason why it's called the growth curve model, if any of you have kids, you take your kids to be weighed and measured. So your kid, of course, has his own curve or her own curve. And then you compare that information to all other kids who are supposed to be like your kid, but in fact I heard it's like some sample of kids from 1950 in Colorado. Whatever. [Audience laughter.]
Anyway, one of the things you see is that there is a pretty sharp decline in the PSN areas. You also see that crime was declining already in the PSN areas. So in the paper we explain that the reason why we think we had a substantial impact here is because the slope of the line changes. The decline is faster after the beginning of the program.
Here is the really big, important slide. Now, what this shows are these are effects on the quarterly neighborhood homicide rates and each one of these predictors — so we've got forums, gun recoveries, prosecutions, sentence length — are percentage decrease in the log homicide rates, so they're comparable. That's the point, right? So for each percentage increase of sentence length, which is like a person-year, you get a .8 reduction in the log homicide rate. For each federal prosecution — which that one wasn't statistically significant, by the way. For each federal prosecution, you get a 2.7 reduction. For each gun, you get a 2.2. So a federal prosecution is roughly equal to a gun. It means you can think about cost accounting. The gun numbers, actually interesting, you get 100 guns off the street, you save a life in Chicago.
And the forum measure works like this. You become eligible to participate in the forum by being released from prison with a gun crime or a violent crime in your history. So that's how the pool expands. Then as you go to the forum, you come out of the pool, so the pool gets smaller. And it's constantly getting bigger and being depleted. So this is, for each percentage increase of people who are eligible to go to the forum and who in fact go, you get that.
We had 99 percent compliance rate during the testing period of people who went to the forum when asked, and they were randomly assigned. That last point is going to be important for the next graph.
Because people always ask, “Well what about people who go to the forum? Are they different from people who don't go?” And the answer is yes. If you went to the forum, our analysis shows that you stayed out on the street, so this is, we say “recidivism” up there, but we're really supposed to be saying desistance. You will stay out on the street roughly 33 percent longer than people who didn't go.
This one, not so happy. This is, you take just the gang members and see what kind of impacts that you get. You get a little bit. The sad news it that after about 50 months, every gang member in our sample was back in prison, every single one. They all go back. The effect that you see, so that would be this little gap here, is that the people who were treated went back last. So the happy story for people like, I don't know if Diane Williams is here from Safer Foundation, but the happy story is, it gives you a kind of treatment window for services. You have a little bit more time to work with. That's the way we like to talk about these results.
And finally, why this sort of view of thinking about architecture and encounters is important. Turns out that almost everybody thinks that you should obey the law even if it goes against what they think is right. This is the legitimacy perspective. Right? I'm going to obey because I think you are legally authorized to tell me what to do. Now, the red bar, that's Tyler and Huo's study in Oakland, and specifically their study of young men in Oakland, so that was as close to a group of people they thought could be offenders as possible. The blue bar is the Chicago Gun Project; that's my study with Andrew. That is a sample of 300 active gun offenders, people who are on parole or probation. These are the real guys. Nobody's ever actually asked the legitimacy questions of this group of people who were real offenders before us.
And one of the things you see is that they're basically like everybody else. Criminals obey the law for the same reasons that everybody else does, for the most part.
But things change when you see whether police treat them with respect. So Tyler and Huo, those are ordinary people. Seventy-seven percent of them think that police treat them with respect compared to 22 percent who don't. If you look at our sample of offenders, they are almost exactly opposite. Now what does this mean? I think what it means is that law enforcers are not availing themselves of the potential of legitimacy. As I said, deterrence works. It totally works. It's just costly, and it doesn't last very long.
So if you can change the world so that the blue bars are more like the red bars, you're going to get cheaper law enforcement, you're going to get more compliance, and you're going to get longer-lasting compliance; at least, that's the suggestion.
There's my take home. There it is. Thank you.
Laub: Thank you, Tracey. We'll open up the floor for questions and I want to remind people since we're tape recording, if you could use the microphone and state your name and your affiliation before you ask your question.
Winnie Reed: My name is Winnie Reed from NIJ. I would just like your take, Tracey, on why you think this is so much harder for gang members.
Meares: Well, I mean, I would go back to this, right? Gang members are people who have had lots of contact with the police and they've had lots of opportunities to come to the conclusion that police are people who don't tend to treat them with respect, are not treating them neutrally and fairly, right? And so they can't really avail themselves of the aspects of legitimacy that give you the bigger bang for the buck. And one way of thinking about it is all you end up being able to use, really, on gang members is deterrence.
One thing, though, that's fascinating — we have a paper called “Why Do Criminals Obey the Law?”which was just submitted for review. So this is one of the graphs from that thing. But one of the things we actually find is that gang members run higher on some of the, what I'll call “professed” legitimacy scales than the behavioral ones. So if you ask gang members, well, maybe not this question, but there's a legitimacy scale that we use, which, this is one of them, and people who are in gangs actually score higher on those measures than people who don't.
Now, you know, I'm looking around at some of you, and you're kind of like, “Well, that's weird.” But now you're thinking about it again, and as you think about it again, you think, “Oh, that's not weird at all.” Of course it's not weird, because these are people who are part of organizations who are used to hierarchies and obeying rules, so of course they're going to be committed to these ideas. These ideas don't have to apply only to obeying the laws that proscribe crime, but are just sort of rules of social society. So to the extent that you are a group that cares about rule compliance, at least in your own group, then it's kind of not surprising that they come to that conclusion.
I think that would be my answer, Winnie. I think the problem with saying that and why I'm still talking and not letting someone else ask me a question, is … I worry that in saying that, that that's basically sanctioning the idea that, “Well then we should just use deterrence for the people who are the most hardened criminals.” Because I want to say that, you always want to say that there's the possibility for redemption, number one, that you might be able to persuade them to adopt more legitimacy-based bases of compliance over time. I mean, this was a really small intervention to get the kind of results we got, and I'm sure somebody's going to ask me that question. And I assure you I have an answer, so maybe you don't want to ask it, since you know you're not going to surprise me now.
But the other thing I worry about in saying that is that you don't want to authorize sort of broad-scale deterrent strategies because often law enforcers don't know who the gang members are. So if you treat everybody as if they're a gang member using deterrence-based strategies, then you also risk alienating the people who weren't inclined to go that way anyway, for which legitimacy really will work. So then you should try that strategy first. Am I calling on people?
Laub: If you'd like. [Inaudible.]
Daphne Felten-Green: Daphne Felten-Green from the Office for Civil Rights. I just had a question about people who are not the gang members who have the benefit of the forum that you all hosted in Chicago. And people who are in society that maybe never have encounters with police but deserve the legitimacy model. How do we get police to adopt that as a model of behavior? How does that get inculcated in the culture of police departments so that they're not looking at deterrence when you have an encounter like with Gates where what he needed at the time was a legitimate response and a legitimate behavior? So how do we get that to happen?
Meares: Brilliant question, indicative of University of Chicago Law School training, I say. [Audience laughter.] So, when I started this work, I actually was concerned a lot more with those people. So the idea at the beginning of this when I started teaching in 1995 was about — law enforcement policies, at least in the way lawyers conceive of it, is all about defendants and victims. But there's sort of a third-party other, you could say. And this is people in the community. And how do we think about how they're interacting, because they have to be, they're partners, they're audience, they're really critical for thinking about the goals and projects of a community, really. And so this is actually one of the reasons why I found Tom's theories so attractive. Because the question you want to ask is, “Well, how is it that people actually internalize this idea of voluntary compliance? How is it that you decide that obeying the law is the right thing to do or that government authorities have the right to dictate to you proper behavior?”
So then we have to shift to developmental psychology and how children learn things and how they're taught. This is actually how the shark music got into the study. I was reading developmental psychology and the ways in which parents give cues to kids about things that are OK and things that are not. And one of the things that you find in some high-crime communities, so now I think the best source of data on this is actually an NIJ-sponsored project, the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods — PHDCN. What you find is that in a lot of communities like that, people are actually very intolerant of crime, actually, maybe even more so than in the liberal, wealthy neighborhood that I live in in New Haven. But they're also very distrustful of police, so there's a paper that Rob Sampson and Dawn Bartusch have written where they talk about this dichotomy as legal cynicism. And if kids grow up in a context of legal cynicism, the kind of cues that they're getting about the extent to which law enforcers are to be trusted, legal structures are to be trusted, police officers are benevolent, they're not getting that information.
So then you talk to police chiefs like my friend Frank Straub, who's now public safety director in Indianapolis, and he's encountering a kid who runs every time he sees the police. And he goes to the kid, “Why are you running?” And the kid says, “Well, because my father ran.” That's the kind of information that they're getting generation after generation. So all this means, of course, that you're right. This way of encountering people has to happen — actually maybe even more important that it works for people who aren't going to be arrested, who aren't the gang members, who actually aren't ever even stopped by police. And so then it's how the media treats them, what the stories are that sort of circulate in a community about how people are treated.
That to me is the real danger actually of what's happening in New York. If you look at young African American men in New York between the ages of 18 and 24, something like 85, I think this is the number that Jeff told me, 85 to 87 percent of them are stopped in a year. That's a lot of stories, and that's going back to their mothers and their sisters, and so these are the people that are sort of creating a norm about what police are about. And it's not a norm and a story that's supportive of this.
And when I've done this kind of training in a couple of police departments in Oakland and Cambridge, I've said to cops, “Look, you have to understand that every encounter that you have has an audience that's not there.” So even if this kid or whatever you think deserves it, you have to understand that the kid is like the Clairol girl. And they tell someone and she tells someone and so on and so on and so on. I'm going to get every cultural reference into this talk that I possibly can get. [Audience laughter.]
But so you're absolutely right. It turns out that I think they're probably even more important really in ensuring that this works than the offenders. Yes. In the back.
Karen Stern: I'm Karen Stern. I'm with the National Institute of Justice, and this question kind of follows along this idea that you mentioned about stories and the audience that's not there, because the data that you've shown so far kind of draws a very bright white line between, you've got the gun offenders and the gang members, and then you've got those individuals who don't belong in those groups. But I'm wondering if you've got data from your own research or are aware of data from other projects that looks at the variable of how many encounters an individual has with law enforcement in terms of their beliefs in legitimacy, lawfulness, procedural justice, etc.
Meares: OK, so I can think of two studies, but the one that's the most relevant would probably be — oh, finally — would be the study that Tom and Jeff Fagan did that was published in the Ohio State University Journal of Criminal Law. So Tom, Jeff, Chris Winship, Anthony Braga, and I did a kind of symposium on legitimacy that was published in that journal, and what Tom and Jeff did was to look at a sample of New Yorkers where they asked them questions about, you know, their perceptions of the police, these legitimacy questions, so on and so forth. Then they actually had encounters with police — some of them, not everybody — and then they talked to them again. So it was a longitudinal study, unlike some of the other ones, panel data.
And the idea was, what they were trying to do was disabuse Wes Skogan of this idea that these legitimacy effects only run in one way. So Wes had written a paper basically saying, “Look. All police can do is screw it up.” That if they are mean to people and they treat them poorly and so on, it's definitely going to make people have negative opinions of the police. But there's basically nothing they can do to rehabilitate themselves. So doing good, sort of investing in the kinds of stuff that I've been talking about today, isn't going to help.
Now, Wes made this conclusion on cross-sectional data, so it was kind of hard for him to make that claim. But anyway, Tom and Jeff showed in fact, not true. One, that you can do things that are consistent with investing in legitimacy-based routines, processes, and practices that set up a kind of reciprocity of interaction that will enhance procedural justice of encounters and thereby enhance legitimacy. It is true, however, not surprisingly, that negative encounters are more impactful than positive ones. So that is, you have to have a lot more positive ones to overcome the effects of the negative one, which actually goes back to my one answer to Winnie, that one issue with the gang members is that they've had lots and lots and lots and lots of negative encounters, so you got to do a lot to fix it.
OK. Going around the room. Yes? In the back.
Audience Member 1: [Inaudible.]
Meares: You have to be in the microphone.
Audience Member 1: You just made a point from operational standpoint that is difficult, if not impossible, to deal with. You have a negative. Humans react to negative events. It's part of our basic cognitive stimuli setup. We internalize those much faster, much more rapidly. We learn from them. That's actually how we're designed. We're not designed to react to affirmative events. Ergo, you are now asking the DA and all other law enforcement agencies to quadruple, quintuple, sextuple our activities to try to balance things out.
Meares: No, no, no, no, no.
Audience Member 1: How do we logistically manage this with man power?
Meares: OK. Actually, I'm not. And the reason why I'm not goes to my answer to Daphne, right? Which is, look, first of all, you don't want to start just sort of willy-nilly encountering people in terms of a stop context in order to balance this out. But there are all sorts of ways in which you can encounter people that don't have to do with sort of stops on the street, arrests on the street. And one way of thinking about this is that it actually gives you some meat, some architecture, for thinking about what you should be doing in community policing. It also, also, tells you what you should be doing with your media strategy, actually.
Audience Member 1: [Inaudible.]
Meares: You're supposed to ask the question at the microphone. [Audience laughter.] But the second point is, as I said, you could have a media strategy, and any institution and organization, even if it's not a community policing organization, I would hope, could have a media strategy that could explain to people in widespread terms what they're doing that are legitimacy-enhancing. One of the things that's legitimacy enhancing actually is actually simply explaining to people what you do. Right?
So any time you encounter somebody, you say to them, rather than saying — Ellen gave me this wonderful example: A police officer stops you after you sort of do the California roll through the stop sign and he says to me — I have my kids in the car — “License and registration, ma'am,” and I say, “Why'd you stop me?” “License and registration, ma'am.” You know. How about, “Well, I saw you rolling through the stop. This is an area with kids.” Explain yourself. People like explanations. And you don't have to simply explain what you're doing in an individual context, which you can do, but you can imagine, I think, it doesn't take much imagination, to imagine explaining what you're doing on a broad scale and in mass terms, right? Businesses do this all the time. Yes?
Tom Feucht: Tom Feucht, NIJ. Tracey, I'm glad you mentioned community policing, because I wanted to ask you to put that in its place within this context. What is it, where does it bear on these issues? What does it fail to bring to these issues?
Meares: So here's what it fails to bring, and then I know there were some questions over here. What it fails to bring is that it's sort of a mindset. Community policing is about enhancing trust in the community. But how do you do that? For some people, that's doing good, doing good deeds; for some people, that's riding a bike through the neighborhood; for some people, it's a very sort of nuts and bolts, making sure I've met every one of the people who live in my community, almost as if they're a constituent. The idea of procedural justice, I think, I hope, is that because it tells you what's important to people and how they come to conclusions about what's rightful about your behavior as a cop, and then it's telling you something about the architecture, the policy that you ought to implement in the way in which you engage people. It also tells you who you should be engaging. This goes back to Daphne's question.
I spent a lot of time in my presentation talking about research that I've done that's relevant to how it impacts people who have been found to be wrongdoers, but really the power of this idea has to do with people who aren't, really, because it's a social psychological theory. So if you persuade the people who very rarely get caught up in the criminal justice system, that gives you a cushion. That gives you something to rely on. That's like your interest in your bank account, to use yet another. It's like paying it forward. You interact with those people, then when something negative happens, you have something to rely on. They already have reason to trust in your benevolence. They already think you're fair. They already think that you think that they're someone who counts, right? So they can explain away the incident that would otherwise validate. That's what you don't want. You don't want the incident that validates. In order to make it not be the incident that validates, you have to have a different way of dealing with people and actually engage with people who are not wrongdoers, and who you actually never think are going to be wrongdoers, and not just because you want them to tell you about what crime happened. Because you want them to tell you and be a full partner with you in the production of safety.
Audience Member 2: And they wind up on your jury.
Meares: What? Well, that too. Microphone, please.
Thomas Abt: Hi. Thomas Abt from OJP. One of the things that I took away from Tom Tyler's presentation and I think I'm taking away here, but I just want to make sure I'm getting the right conclusion, is that there's often been a tradeoff presumed between active or aggressive policing and police legitimacy, and police-community relationships. Is one of the conclusions that you can draw from this work is that you can do active policing, you can make a lot of stops and do those types of things, but if you do it in a way that is perceived to be fair and respectful, and high on the treatment index, that you can actually get the public safety benefits of that without losing the community?
Meares: Yeah. That's the Northwest, actually.
Abt: And I have one specific question, which is, on the PSN data on your slide that went back to the calls, you showed the much bigger effect.
Meares: Yeah, the forums.
Abt: For the calls versus the guns recovered versus the prosecutions. I didn't really quite understand what the call in metric was. One gun, one prosecution, I get that. But what was the one forum?
Meares: A one percentage increase in the percentage of people who were eligible to attend the forum who went. All right? So you have this pool — basically, it's looking for a saturation measure. I mean, think about it like vaccination. That's the way to think about it, that as you vaccinate more people in the pool, you're getting a bigger effect. And I can say something else about that again because I was too flip when I said to your answer that you can do lots of stops. I said it's a Northwest. And I'm sure somebody was paying attention and said, “Wait! You're saying all those stops are unlawful.”
So, no. I'm not saying that. Hopefully you're doing all the stops in a completely legal and constitutional way, and you are also legitimate, so you're in the Northeast. But, just between us in the room, the implication of this is that they don't have to all be constitutional really. I mean, I'm just going to be honest here, that they don't have to be, and they might still be perceived as legitimate, and that people — we can have a normative discussion about whether this is OK, the lawyers in the room. I have this argument with my students all the time. But I will tell you what people think. People prefer, the public, and I've got a research project with Tom on this where we have surveyed 2,000 people across the country in 15 different cities. People like the Northwest better than the Southeast. So if they had to choose between a condition where police were violating the law in some way, let's say they didn't quite have reasonable suspicion for the stop, but you were really nice and respectful, so on and so forth, they prefer that than the condition where you were on all fours with the Fourth Amendment, but you treat them like a jerk.
Now, again, we can talk about whether that's OK or not. I'm just telling you that's what people like. And there's actually an example of the regime that you mentioned in Milwaukee. I'd say that's pretty much what Ed Flynn does. He engages in lots of stops in high-crime neighborhoods, and they have a very aggressive program of what they call, “sell the stop.” He tells his guys that they need to be very unfailingly polite to the people that they stop and if the person that they've stopped, for example, doesn't have a license, but they're not the kind of person that they're looking for, they're sent off with a warning because his idea is that people should not have to pay a tax, a traffic tax essentially, just because they live in a high-crime neighborhood. But this is an area that still needs policing and by all accounts, at least that I've seen, that strategy is working for him.
Kevin Malone: I'm Kevin Malone. I'm from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and I wanted to thank you for your presentation. It was really exciting to hear a conversation about legitimacy. With a sociology background, I get really excited when I hear that thrown around. But what came to my mind in your conversation was that the police are just one agent in the whole spectrum from the perspective of people who are disenfranchised, and who the police don't hold any legitimacy. The police are part of a larger — one of many groups that create that anti-group discord — and many of those other groups, like the people in your neighborhood and mine, also have ideas about legitimacy and about punitive justice, and about why people commit crimes, and many of those ideas about why criminals behave in the way that they do, that you used empirical evidence at the beginning to disprove, saying that people don't commit crimes because they're terrible people and that your science at the beginning, this audience is very unique in that. There's a huge population out there that has different ideas about why criminals behave in a certain way and believe in punitive justice. And how do you feel about not just educating police about the empirical advantages of legitimacy-informed policing, but in informing the general public from a politically informed perspective on how legitimacy impacts all these things? Sorry if that was …
Meares: Um. Hm. How do I want to answer that? That could be long. So I want to say that part of the reason why I shift to the idea of “Why do criminals obey the law?” for the same reason as everybody else is I think this idea of always trying to detect a relatively rare event and design policy around it is just ultimately not fruitful, and it leads you down this path of the whole root causes thing and, you know, a bunch of stuff that's illuminating and helpful but I don't think necessarily gets you to policy that's going to be impactful at the end of the day.
So one way of answering this question is to dodge and to say, “I really don't want to get into a conversation about the real reasons people break the law,” because my whole point is that we should stop talking about that. What we should start doing, or at least spend more time, because we haven't really, is spend time talking about all the reasons why people comply with the law, look at those concepts, see the extent to which our policies, our structures — and it's not just police, right? It's about the courts. This procedural justice stuff is being used in the courts. It's about how we operate prisons. It's about how we operate schools. This stuff goes long way.
Tom has written books about its applicability in the corporate setting. I understand that Ellen Scrivner has done a talk about this in the workplace. You can use it everywhere. So look at these concepts, see how it lines up with our policy, and see whether we need to make adjustments. I spent the first five years of my career looking at the, sort of standard, what I call get-tough law enforcement strategy to see the ways in which it impacted negatively social disorganization. I shouldn't say “disorganization,” because one of the points I made in that piece was that there's no such thing; it's only social organization and places are differently organized. So the ways in which these policies impact social organization of different communities to their detriment, so there's that. We know all the ways in which the kind of deterrence, get-tough strategies where we're trying to figure out why people are doing the bad things that they do, we've really invested in that and I'm really just trying to shift the conversation.
And I think what I would say to those people is just ask them, “Well, why do you obey?” And then, “Why do you think that people who you say don't obey the law are any different from you? Or how are they different from you? Or how often are they different from you? And if it turns out that they're not really that different from you very much or very often, then why should we organize a law enforcement policy as if they are?” That would be my answer.
Amy Solomon: Amy Solomon, OJP. I want to know if the law enforcement agencies see the power in this idea. Do you have police departments beating down your door? Are they being trained? Obviously, Ed Flynn has taken to this idea. Are they being evaluated, those that are taking?
Meares: So, [laughing] are they beating down my door? Some of them, which is why I'm never at home. I think police chiefs in big cities get this, you know? And cities where it's tough, so I can tell you the people that I've talked to who I'm very engaged with are sort of the chiefs of Boston — Ed Davis in Boston and George Gascón in San Francisco, and Tony Batts in Oakland. Ron Davis hasn't had a big jurisdiction, but it's a violent one in East Palo Alto, and Frank Straub in Indianapolis and Ed Flynn in Milwaukee, people in the Chicago police department, and Frank Limon in New Haven. There are a number of – Garry McCarthy in Newark. So there are a number of people who get it and see its importance and are doing things that they can to try to implement it.
It turns out, though, that often the places where people are most excited about it are the places where the political landscape is tough and the crime context is tougher and so probably part of the reason why I spent so much time talking about how cops might relate to it is, you know, when you're out there in the street and it's violent and it's hard, you worry about your safety, and that's real. And one of the things Tom and I have tried to do is say that this is not inconsistent with preserving officer safety and there are particular arguments you have to make about that to say that there's a payoff for you at the end of the day. It's not just that this is the right thing to do, which it is, just the right thing to do, though it's not clear about that. But there are instrumental benefits to compliance at the end of the day. So it's my hope that more policing agencies will take it seriously as the evidence mounts up that it's something that matters.
On that note — oh yeah.
Susan Howley: Hi, Susan Howley from the National Center for Victims of Crime. A lot of what you said resonated with me with regard to crime victims, and I wondered if you had looked specifically at police treatment of victims as adding to the legitimacy, because I could think of a few types of situations — for instance, the great number of rape victims who are disbelieved and treated as though they don't matter. Or all of the homicides in high-crime urban areas that go unsolved, become cold cases, and the family feels, “I must not matter; no one stays in touch with me.” Or all of the young black men who may be offenders one time but victims another, may not be treated respectfully and with dignity when they are victims. I just wondered if you have looked at that or viewed your research through that lens.
Meares: I talked with Susan Herman about it very extensively, actually, when she was writing her book on parallel justice, and she's a friend. For those of you who don't know, Susan Herman was maybe not your immediate predecessor …
Meares: Two peoples ago. Well, anyway, she used to be in charge of the National Center for Victims of Crime, and this is obviously an idea that has relevance to the victim context and again ties back to Daphne's question that this is really not about achieving, to the extent that somebody wanted to try this, as a strategy for reducing crime. It's a mistake to think about its applicability only for offenders, and this is this point, either because a person might be an offender in the next iteration, or because they're members of the community that sort of have an interest in having productive partnerships with law enforcers and agencies, government agencies generally, actually. That can help them, as a community, achieve their goals and projects.
As far as the rape context in particular, I actually have a student right now — at Yale there's a requirement called the substantial supervised analytic writing where a student writes what one hopes to be a publishable paper under the supervision of a faculty member. Now, if anybody here went to Yale law school, you have to write it before you graduate. And her name is Yeney Hernandez and she's actually writing a paper on procedural justice as it applies to rape victims, for this reason.
I just wanted to say one little thing on what you said though, where you said that … the families of homicide victims might think that they don't count because the case was never solved. Now, that ,of course, is a focus on outcomes, but if you said instead, “Well, what they care about is people keeping in touch with them, just letting them know what's going on.” And not to say that they don't care about that, but the procedural justice perspective is really more about actually not having to solve the case.
Howley: Right, and that is what I meant, staying in touch with those families even though the case has gone cold and letting them know you're still open to information and they do still matter.
Meares: Right, right. Now, again, I don't want to say that I think that that's what police officers should be doing instead of doing the work. That's not what this is about. It's just a point of different perspective, change in perspective, what matters. There are all kinds of things that you can do to help the relationship that actually doesn't have to do with that that you can do, and actually certain things that you don't have to do, like people don't necessarily expect that you're going to solve the burglary case where the person came in and took your TV, right? But what they do want is some kind of contact with you and an explanation of what you did and that you tried. And then if it goes away, it goes away, but the idea that you're never going to be in contact with anybody, and only in contact in the very rare cases where you first solve the case, is just not a winning strategy.
Laub: Please join me in thanking Tracey for a wonderful presentation.
Meares: Thank you.
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Impact of COVID-19 on School Safety Research - Roundtable Discussion, NIJ Virtual Conference on School Safety
- School Transitions and Student Responses to Victimization - Breakout Session, NIJ Virtual Conference on School Safety
- Physical Safety and Preparedness - Breakout Session, NIJ Virtual Conference on School Safety