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Policing and Society

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Police -- United States -- Public opinion -- Effect of social media on, Police -- United States -- Attitudes, Police and mass media


Controversial incidents of police-citizen interactions, coupled with advancements in internet media technology has created a new dynamic of how public perceptions of the police might be influenced. This paper reports results of an experiment examining how videos of police-citizen interactions found on social media platforms might influence civilian perceptions of legitimacy and procedural justice. Using 173 randomly assigned participants and a pre/post-test design, we compare perceptual effects of positive, negative, and neutral depictions of police-citizen interactions. Results indicate all media had an effect on perceptions of legitimacy, with negative content yielding the largest effects, significantly diminishing global perceptions of legitimacy, whereas positive content significantly improved perceptions of legitimacy. Our findings suggest that while public videos of police-citizen interactions found online can contribute substantially to increasing distrust in the police, they may also demonstrate how policing agencies might use similar platforms to improve public perceptions of their legitimacy.


© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

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