Confirming or resisting the ‘racist cop’ stereotype? the importance of a police officer’s ‘guardian’ identity in moderating support for procedural justice

Kristina Murphy, Molly McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Police have been criticized for their biased treatment of minorities. While many officers do not hold prejudicial attitudes toward minorities, discrimination continues. Stereotype threat research offers one possible explanation for why this is so. Paradoxically, studies reveal that officers who feel more threatened by the ‘racist cop’ stereotype rely more on coercive force in interactions with minorities. This perpetuates the view that police are racist. This study examines whether officers can overcome the negative consequences of experiencing stereotype threat. It focuses on the link between stereotype threat and officers’ support for procedural justice policing, and examines how social identity moderates this relationship. Using survey data from 307 police officers (22.5% females, 11.1% non-Australian ancestry, and 69.4% general duties officers), we find that stereotype threat is associated with reduced support for procedural justice, but is moderated by how officers self-identify. Officers who identify more strongly as ‘guardians’ (i.e. they emphasize policing as a service) are more likely to display stereotype resistance; that is, they are better able to resist the negative consequences of the ‘racist cop’ stereotype. Those who identify less strongly as ‘guardian’ officers, in contrast, fall victim to stereotype threat and display stereotype conformity. Implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • guardian identity
  • Policing
  • procedural justice
  • stereotype resistance
  • stereotype threat

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