Predicting Procedural Justice Behavior: Examining Personality and Parental Discipline in New Officers
Lawrence, Daniel S.
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This dissertation sought to identify characteristics of police officers associated with their procedurally just behaviors when interacting with community members. Officers’ personality traits and parental discipline styles experienced as a child were hypothesized to influence the level of procedural justice exhibited by officers during traffics stops, accidents, and crime reports. This dissertation fills a gap in the policing literature as past research has not used procedurally just behaviors as outcomes to evaluate police performance and the factors that predict such behaviors are not being systematically measured. Data from 172 Chicago police officers who had a total of 458 interactions with community members were analyzed to test hypotheses about the impact of background and personality characteristics on officers’ procedurally just behaviors. The study identified several factors that affected procedural justice behaviors during police-community interactions, including the type of encounter, the community member’s age, and whether or not the officer was in a relationship. As for the main hypotheses, the personality trait of Neuroticism was negatively related to procedural justice use, as predicted. However, Conscientiousness was also negatively related to procedural justice use, contrary to expectations. Personality traits unrelated to procedural justice included Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Openness. The findings about disciplinary practices both supported and challenged the hypotheses: As hypothesized, the parental discipline styles of deprivation of privileges was positively related to procedural justice use, but unexpectedly, the use of corporal punishment was also positively related to procedural justice use. The parental disciplinary styles psychological control and penalty tasks and restorative behaviors were unrelated to procedural justice. Lastly, officers who experienced corporal punishment were likely to have a more neurotic personality, which in turn was associated with lower procedural justice. Implications of the results are discussed. A central recommendation is that law enforcement agencies should begin to evaluate officers on the quality of their interactions with the public as opposed to the quantity of their daily work. Furthermore, more research is needed to identify characteristics associated with procedurally just behaviors so that hiring and screening procedures can be refined.