Book Review: Mirage of police reform: Procedural justice and police legitimacy

AuthorDavid P. Weiss
Published date01 March 2020
Date01 March 2020
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Book Reviews
Worden, R. E., & McLean, S. J. (2017).
Mirage of police reform: Procedural justice and police legitimacy. Oakland: University of California Press. 254 pp.
$34.95, ISBN 978-0-520-29241-3.
Reviewed by: David P. Weiss, Fitchburg State University, MA, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016817748722
Mirage of Police Reform, by Worden and McLean, is a fresh and timely look at procedural justice,
police legitimacy, and community trust. While Yale law professors Tom Tyler and Tracey Meares
may have seemingly cornered the scholastic market on police trust, legitimacy, and procedural
justice, Worden, associate profe ssor of criminal justice SUNY Albany, a nd McLean, associate
director of the John F. Finn Institute f or Public Safety, conduct a revised assessment of these
concepts—posing new questions—with the use of both qualitative and quantitative analysis and
through the lens of two case study police departments: Schenectady and Syracuse, NY.
Reminding readers of the seriousness of their book’s concepts, the authors provide a brief
historical context by reaching back to the riots of the ’60s and the Kerner Commission, mentioning
the Rodney King riots and the Warren Commission of the early ’90s, and, of course, highlighting this
century’s more recent community and policing crises across the country and the resultant 2015
President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. And, with an uptick in violent crime in several of
the United States larger cities since 2014, the authors’ focus on police and community could not be
more opportune.
Laid out in 10 manageable chapters, Worden and McLean explore legitimacy and police depart-
ments via institutional theory (i.e., police departments are institutional organizations which impact
bureaucratic change and the resultant outcomes from said change); citizens’ subjective experiences
of police action and procedural justice via survey data; police officers’ demonstrations of procedural
justice or injustice as recorded by independent observers; perceptions of police management
accountability as identified through semistructured interviews of both patrol officers and super-
visors; street-level bureaucrats and their ability to make sense of newly imposed organizational
reforms by command staff, such as efforts to make police more customer-service oriented; and
explore where all their data lead for possible future police reforms.
The authors straightforwardly hypothesize that a procedural justice model of policing is “likely to
be weakly implemented in police organizations ...and also that improvements in the procedural
justice with which police act in their interactions with citizens are unlikely to yield corresponding
improvements in citizens’ subjective experiences with police” (p. 5). Yet, this runs counter to much
of the previous scholarship on procedural justice. To test their hypotheses, the authors build a scale
of both procedural justice and injustice, noting the four domains of procedural justice as: voice,
where customers get to tell their side of the story; quality of interpersonal treatment, where cus-
tomers are treated with dignity and respect; trustworthy motives, where police care about the
Criminal Justice Review
2020, Vol. 45(1) 143-149
ª2017 Georgia State University
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