Procedural justice training for police recruits: results of a randomized controlled trial
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Procedural justice training for police officers is designed to improve officers’ interactions with the public. Aside from the fact that it is a given that citizens deserve to be treated in a fair manner by authorities such as the police, it is expected, based on the literature, that if the police act in a procedurally just manner they will be seen as more legitimate and citizens will subsequently be more willing to cooperate or comply with them. The present study was designed to evaluate the impact of a specifically designed procedural justice knowledge and skills-based training program on newly recruited police officers’ attitudes and interactions with the public.
Fifty-six police recruits were matched into pairs with one officer from each pair randomly selected to participate in a short procedural justice training program at the end of their recruit training period. In addition to being surveyed about procedural justice-related attitudes, recruits’ interactions with the public as newly inducted first year police officers were evaluated in real-time by their field training mentors in relation to procedurally just behaviors.
Results suggest some limited positive effects of the training on both officer attitudes and actual on-the-job behavior. Mentors’ ratings of procedurally just behaviors in public interactions were generally higher for experimental than control recruits. Furthermore, recruits’ perceptions of the effectiveness of procedural justice were increased immediately after the training, though not their perceived use of these skills. However, these effects were not always statistically significant.
This study adds to the evidence surrounding procedural justice training of police officers, indicating that such training programs are feasible and have the potential to improve officers’ interactions with members of the public.
KeywordsPolice Procedural justice Recruit training Randomized controlled trial
The authors thank the many police officers involved in this project in various ways. Particular thanks go to Assistant Commissioner Debbie Platz. Alistair Fildes developed the training package with the assistance of Josephine Wheatley, Peter Heck, and Tony Montgomery-Clarke. The authors also acknowledge Dr. Elise Sergeant, Professor Lorraine Mazerolle, Dr. Sarah Bennett, Professor Lawrence Sherman, Sir Denis O’Connor, and Dr. Justice Tankebe, who assisted in a variety of ways to bring this trial to fruition, and Dr. Stephanie Cardwell for her advice on analysis. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and are not those of the Queensland Police Service. Responsibility for any errors of omission or commission remains with the authors. The Queensland Police Service expressly disclaims any liability for any damage resulting from the use of the material contained in this publication and will not be responsible for any loss, howsoever arising, from use or reliance on this material.
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