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Citizen oversight, procedural justice, and officer perceptions of the complaint investigation process

Joseph De Angelis (Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA)
Aaron Kupchik (University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 13 November 2007




The purpose of this paper is to examine data from a survey of police officers in a Western US city, showing the factors that shape police officers' satisfaction with their city's system for investigating and resolving citizen complaints alleging officer misconduct. Specifically, it tests whether perceptions of legitimate authority and procedural justice influence overall satisfaction, and how these two theoretical perspectives fare relative to a distributive justice perspective.


This paper uses anonymous mailed surveys to examine the attitudes of a sample of 373 police officer respondents from one large urban police department.


The findings support the importance of both procedural justice and perceived legitimacy by finding that both perspectives shape officers' satisfaction more than the actual outcomes reached on their cases. Attitudes toward oversight were not found to be related to satisfaction with the complaint process.

Research limitations/implications

This paper focuses on only one city and has a relatively small number of respondents.


In this paper the analyses expand these theoretical perspectives by applying them to a unique and important group, the police themselves, whose attitude toward citizen complaints and police accountability has been largely neglected by the prior research.



De Angelis, J. and Kupchik, A. (2007), "Citizen oversight, procedural justice, and officer perceptions of the complaint investigation process", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 651-671.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited