Compliance, Coercion, and Procedural Justice: An Analysis of Police-Suspect Encounters

John D. McCluskey, Michigan State University

Police scholars hypothesize that police, in the era of community policing, are more reliant on citizens' exercise of voluntary compliance and self control than punitive arrest in face to face encounters. This paper elaborates on and explores two potential mechanisms for achieving citizen compliance. First, coercive power in the forms of threats and physical and legal control are examined as tools for gaining citizen compliance. Second, literature in procedural justice is tapped to develop hypotheses regarding police use of "just" and "unjust" tactics in legitimizing (or delegitimizing) requests for self control or compliance. Data from the Project on Policing Neighborhoods collected through systematic social observation of face to face police-citizen encounters in St. Petersburg, FL and Indianapolis, IN, are used in our analyses.

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Updated 05/20/2006