Is It the What or the How? The Roles of High‐Policing Tactics and Procedural Justice in Predicting Perceptions of Hostile Treatment: The Case of Security Checks at Ben‐Gurion Airport, Israel

Published date01 September 2016
Date01 September 2016
Is It the What or the How? The Roles of
High-Policing Tactics and Procedural Justice
in Predicting Perceptions of Hostile Treatment:
The Case of Security Checks at Ben-Gurion
Airport, Israel
Tal Jonathan-Zamir
Badi Hasisi
Yoram Margalioth
What affects perceptions of hostile treatment by police, characterized by feel-
ings such as humiliation and intimidation? Is it what the police do to the citi-
zen, or is it about how they do it? The important effects of procedural justice
are well documented in the policing literature. Yet, it is not clear how high-
policing tactics, coupled with procedural justice, affect one’s sense of hostile
treatment: is it the case that what the police do does not matter as long as they
follow the principles of procedural justice, or do some invasive or unpleasant
tactics produce negative emotions regardless of the amount of procedural jus-
tice displayed by the officer? In the present study we examine this question in
the context of security checks at Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel. Using a survey of
1,970 passengers, we find that the behavioral elements of procedural justice
are an important antidote, mitigating the negative effects of four “extra”
screening measures on the perceived hostility of the checks. At the same time,
two security measures retain an independent and significant effect. We discuss
the implications of our findings and hypothesize about the characteristics of
policing practices that are less sensitive to procedural justice.
Following recent protests and civil disorders in Ferguson, Mis-
souri and other American cities, President Barack Obama estab-
lished a Task Force on 21st Century Policing. “When any part of
the American family does not feel like it is being treated fairly [by law
enforcement], that’s a problem for all of us,” he stated (President’s
Task Force on 21st Century Policing 2015: 5). One of the recom-
mendations of the Task Force was that “ enforcement agencies
should adopt procedural justice as the guiding principle for internal and
external policies and practices to guide their interactions with rank and
file officers and with the citizens they serve” (President’s Task Force on
21st Century Policing 2015: 1). Procedural justice refers to the
fairness embedded in the processes by which power holders exer-
cise their authority, and involves behaviors such as respectful
Please direct all correspondence to Tal Jonathan-Zamir, Institute of Criminology, Fac-
ulty of Law, The Hebrew University, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel; e-mail:
Law & Society Review, Volume 50, Number 3 (2016)
C2016 Law and Society Association. All rights reserved.
speech, inviting citizen input, and transparency in decision mak-
ing. Such behaviors, in turn, were found to promote highly desir-
able outcomes, including an overall sense of fair treatment,
legitimacy, satisfaction, and willingness to comply and cooperate
with police officers (e.g., Blader & Tyler 2003a, 2003b; Jonathan-
Zamir et al. 2015; Murphy 2014; National Research Council
2004; Schulhofer et al. 2011; Sunshine & Tyler 2003; Tyler 2004,
2009, 2011).
On December 30, 2014, the same month the Executive Order
establishing the Task Force was signed, a police officer in New
Jersey stopped a vehicle for allegedly driving through a stop
sign. The officer politely greeted the occupants of the vehicle,
identified himself by name and affiliation, and explained why
they were being stopped. When one of the passengers asked a
question about the location of the stop sign, the officer patiently
explained. He was polite and calm. Yet, at least one of the pas-
sengers did not appear to fully comply with the officer’s
demands, and less than 90 seconds later, Jerame Reid, a 36-year
old Black man, was shot dead by the officers who feared that he
was reaching for a gun (Sanchez 2015). This event is one
(extreme) example of the complexity of police-citizen interac-
tions. The procedural justice model in its most simple form
would have predicted that the officer’s behavior would lead to cit-
izen compliance and cooperation, which would have made the
use of force unnecessary. Yet, like many police-citizen interac-
tions, this encounter clearly involved other factors that led to the
unfortunate outcome. Recognizing that the outcomes of
procedurally-just treatment vary, important questions can be
asked about this variation and the factors that affect it.
In this article we focus on one expected outcome of police-
provided procedural justice—the mitigation of negative emotions
that may arise in police-citizen interactions: humiliation, intimida-
tion, and a sense of indifferent treatment (referred to herein as
perceptions of hostile treatment); and one factor that is expected
to elicit such negative emotions: the use of “high-policing” prac-
tices. High policing addresses strategic problems at the macro-
level, such as national security (rather than local crime and
disorder problems), and is characterized by tactics that are less
transparent and accountable, and thus prone to violations of
human rights and due process (e.g., Bayley & Weisburd 2009;
Brodeur 1983, 2010; Brodeur & Dupeyron 2003). We ask if the
behavioral elements of procedural justice (including treating
citizens with respect, concern, and transparency) “neutralize” the
expected negative outcomes of high policing, or, alternatively, if
some intrusive tactics produce a sense of hostile treatment
Jonathan-Zamir, Hasisi, & Margalioth 609

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