Training police for procedural justice

Abstract

Objectives

This paper reports the findings of an evaluation of a police training program on the principles of procedural justice. This training was part of a larger organizational change strategy aimed at improving the relationship between the police and the public in Chicago.

Methods

The paper reports on the findings of two studies. The short-term effects study was a quasi-experimental test of the immediate effectiveness of the training conducted at the police academy. A longer-term effects study examined the subsequent views of trainees and a comparison group, officers who had not yet been to training. Statistical controls were used to increase confidence in the findings of the second study, which was based on observational data.

Results

In the short term, training increased officer support for all of the procedural justice dimensions included in the experiment. Post-training, officers were more likely to endorse the importance of giving citizens a voice, granting them dignity and respect, demonstrating neutrality, and (with the least enthusiasm) trusting them to do the right thing. All of the effects of training were strong, with standardized effect sizes ranging from 1.2 to 1.6. Longer-term, officers who had attended the procedural justice workshop continued to be more supportive of three of the four procedural justice principles introduced in training; the effect of training on trust was not statistically significant.

Conclusions

There has been little systematic research on police training. This paper concludes that it can play a role in improving police–community relations. It also presents a discussion of some of the limitations of a training-based organizational change strategy.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported in part by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Joyce Foundation. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of Northwestern University or the supporting foundations. Many thanks for the support of the staff of the Chicago Police Education and Training Academy, especially Lt. Bruce Lipman and Sgt. Mark Sedevic. Readers wishing to review the training materials described here should directly contact the Commander of the Chicago Police Training Division, 1300 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607, telephone +1.312.746.8310.

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Correspondence to Wesley G. Skogan.

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Skogan, W.G., Van Craen, M. & Hennessy, C. Training police for procedural justice. J Exp Criminol 11, 319–334 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-014-9223-6

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Keywords

  • Quasi-experiment
  • Survey
  • Police training
  • Procedural justice
  • Neutrality
  • Respect
  • Voice
  • Trust