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Policing by Consent and the Rule of Law in Democratic South Africa

Jonathan Jackson & Ben Bradford, London School of Economics; Benjamin Roberts, Human Sciences Resources Council, South Africa; Aziz Huq, Chicago Law School


  • Bradford, B., Huq, A., Jackson, J. and Roberts, B. (in press). 'What Price Fairness when Security is at Stake? Antecedents of Police Legitimacy in South Africa’, Regulation & Governance. link

The 2010 sweep of the South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS) interviewed 3,183 individuals on a range of crime and policing issues, including trust in the police, perceptions of police legitimacy, cooperation, compliance and worry about crime. 

This national probability sample allows us to estimate levels of contact, trust in police fairness and effectiveness, felt obligation to obey and moral alignment with officers, perceptions of police corruption, public intentions to cooperate, and compliance with the law. 

The first objective of the study is to assess national levels of trust, legitimacy, cooperation and compliance. We will drill down into key stratifying variables, such as race, geography, class, income, age and gender.

The second objective is to test the conceptual structure across key social groups in South Africa. Do different groups think about the police in different ways? Does legitimacy mean different things for different people?

The third objecitve is to test Tyler's procedural justice model of policing within the extraordinarily diverse South African context. Why do people cooperate with legal authorities? What role does institutional legitimacy and procedural justice play in shaping compliance with the law?

We will trace empirical pathways from contact with the police, trust in police fairness and effectiveness, felt obligation and moral alignment with the institution, and cooperation and compliance.

A particular strength of our study is the wealth of data we have collected on social identity, political attitudes and well-being. We can thus capitalise on the social and political context of South Africa to extend the legitimacy model of cooperation and compliance.

This is an associated project of EuroJustis: Scientific Indicators of Confidence in Justice, which is funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme. The SASAS module is designed to be comparable to a rotating module in Round 5 of the European Social Survey (Trust in the Police and Criminal Courts: A Comparative European Analysis).