Placing the Blame in the Post-Ferguson Era: An Exploration of Police Attributions for Crime, Their Declining Legitimacy, and the Breakdown of Justice

Adam Dobrin 1 * , Seth Wyatt Fallik 1, Ross Deuchar 1 2, Vaughn J. Crichlow 1, Sierra Harris 3

AM J QUALITATIVE RES, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp. 36-56

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This paper explores police perceptions on the causes of crime and the declining legitimacy of the police. Notwithstanding the growing body of research on public perceptions towards police, there is little qualitative research on the police perceptions on their attributions for crime, their declining legitimacy, and the breakdown of justice.  It is crucial to increase knowledge on police perceptions towards the public, particularly in the aftermath of violent police-citizen encounters. Given the likelihood that such perceptions will influence the behavior of police officers when interacting with the public, exploring police perspectives regarding crime, their declining legitimacy, and the breakdown of justice is a worthy endeavor. This study, therefore, presents qualitative analysis of data gathered from interviews of 20 local police officers and deputies and participant observations conducted in a Southern American State. The study found that officers blamed community members and dysfunctional social institutions for sustaining environments that foster criminality, a lack of respect for authority, as well as declining police legitimacy. Officers were also frustrated by the role of news and social media as instigators of the constant anger and criticism towards police that make it difficult for them to do their jobs effectively. The implications for police practice and community relations are discussed.

Keywords: Community Relations, Police Legitimacy, Post-Ferguson, Public Perceptions.