First Advisor

Christopher Campbell

Date of Publication

Spring 7-20-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Criminology and Criminal Justice


Criminology and Criminal Justice




Police -- Public opinion, Police and mass media, Police-community relations



Physical Description

1 online resource (iv, 50 pages)


The current climate surrounding the police in the United States could be described as strenuous. This is large in part due to certain shifts in technology and news disbursement; citizens now have the ability to record and share police-citizen encounters. Certain controversial events have been captured and undoubtedly have contributed to a growing mistrust towards the police, evident by the development of movements for police reform. Within the field of criminology, perception of police legitimacy has been a long studied concept. Research has shown that when the police are viewed as legitimate, the public is more likely to cooperate and comply. Thus, the possible decrease in the public's legitimacy perceptions of the police is deeply concerning.

In this study, a randomized experiment was employed to measure the influence of video footage of police-citizen interactions on individual's legitimacy perceptions. Participants were randomly selected to watch videos that showed the police acting in ways that were either positive, negative, or neutral. Legitimacy perceptions were measured before and after exposure to the videos. Analysis of the pre-test and post-test scores showed the videos did influence perceptions: negative videos had the largest influence and significantly decreased perceptions, whereas, positive and neutral videos both significantly increased legitimacy perceptions. The results of this study holds implications for both the police and the public.


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