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Measuring procedural justice and legitimacy at the local level: the police–community interaction survey



To introduce and evaluate the Police–Citizen Interaction (PCI) Survey, the electronic survey component of the National Police Research Platform, designed to measure the quality of police–citizen encounters at the local level.


Three studies tested the feasibility, validity, and sample representativeness of the PCI Survey. A randomized control trial (RCT) compared the PCI Survey results with the most widely used survey method, the telephone survey. The primary measures were the community member’s satisfaction with the contact, judgments of procedural justice during the interaction, police effectiveness, and police legitimacy.


The RCT revealed no significant differences between the PCI Survey and the standard telephone survey, thus increasing confidence in the validity of the PCI methodology. The PCI Survey was able to replicate “known group” findings from prior research; capture agency-level differences in public satisfaction; uncover complex interactions of race, type of incident and procedural justice; and show the relative importance of both process and outcome during police-initiated contacts.


The PCI Survey approach, utilizing web and voice interactive methods, shows considerable promise as a tool for measuring organizational performance in new ways, focusing on procedural fairness and the quality of police services rather than the reliance on crime statistics. The survey appears to have utility for local jurisdictions, while at the same time providing standard metrics for cross-jurisdictional theory testing and benchmarking. The survey was tested initially with three agencies of different sizes. It will be refined for implementation on a larger scale.

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This research was supported in part by Award No. 2008-DN-BX-0005 from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice. We are especially indebted to former Boston Commissioner Edward Davis, Oak Park IL Chief Rick Tanksley, former River Forest IL Chief Frank Limon and current Chief Greg Weiss, who encouraged their employees to invest in this project and see the benefit of research for everyday policing. We also want to thank Chief Rick Tanksley and his staff at the Oak Park IL Police Department for their willingness to participate in the randomized control trial and work with us to advance the current state of knowledge about performance measurement.

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Correspondence to Dennis P. Rosenbaum.

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Rosenbaum, D.P., Lawrence, D.S., Hartnett, S.M. et al. Measuring procedural justice and legitimacy at the local level: the police–community interaction survey. J Exp Criminol 11, 335–366 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-015-9228-9

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  • Community surveys
  • Police performance measurement
  • Police accountability
  • Police–citizen contacts
  • Procedural justice
  • Police legitimacy
  • Randomized control trial
  • Victim empathy