JOURNAL ARTICLE

Public trust and confidence in legal authorities: What do majority and minority group members want from the law and legal institutions?

T R Tyler
Behavioral Sciences & the Law 2001, 19 (2): 215-35
11385699
Discussions of public trust and confidence in the police and the courts often assume that the key to public feelings is the public's evaluation of the outcomes that the public receives from these legal authorities. In the case of the courts, discontent is often assumed to be linked to issues of cost and delay-instrumental concerns about the outcomes delivered to the public by the courts. In the case of the police, the inability to effectively control crime is frequently seen as driving public evaluations. This article presents an alternative procedural justice based model that links public trust and confidence to views about the manner in which legal authorities treat the public. Drawing upon psychological research about public evaluations of institutions and authorities it is argued that the key issue that shapes public views is a process based evaluation of the fairness of the procedures that the police and courts use to exercise their authority. Analyses from several studies exploring the basis of public views support this procedural justice based model of public evaluation. In addition, the results provide suggestions about the elements of procedures that are central to public judgments about their fairness.

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