Encounters between the police and the public: seize the day or practice avoidance?

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effect of encounters on police legitimacy and levels of trust in the police in the Monash Local Government Area in the state of Victoria, Australia. Monash was chosen as it had experienced declining results in the official National Survey of Community Satisfaction with Policing in relation to police legitimacy and trust. Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative case study comprising 18 interviews and six focus groups with community representatives from Monash is employed in the paper. Findings: When procedural justice approaches are applied during encounters between the police and the public, encounters contribute to securing legitimacy for the police. Contact between the police and the public in everyday situations also enhances trust in the police, depending on the way the police conduct themselves during such interactions. Research limitations/implications: Findings from a qualitative case study are not able to be widely generalised but the conclusions are still useful for informing insights into processes impacting police legitimacy and trust. Practical implications: Contributes to informing evidence-based police practice around the way police conduct themselves during community interactions; informs policy decisions around allocation of funding for law enforcement with more officers required to carry out community policing; emphasises the importance of prioritising partnerships with communities; demonstrates that positive police/community relations have wider social cohesion implications in a contemporary era of counter-terrorism priorities. Originality/value: The majority of research in this field to date has been quantitative. A qualitative approach provides fresh insights into the mechanisms of police legitimacy, especially the role of encounters and procedural justice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-160
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2018


  • Community policing
  • Contact
  • Encounters
  • Legitimacy
  • Procedural justice
  • Relationships
  • Trust

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