Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Police-initiated citizen encounters in American cities often are non-neutral events. Encounters range from routine traffic stops to police interdiction of pedestrians during their everyday movements through both residential and commercial areas to aggressive enforcement of social disorder offenses. As a crime detection and control strategy central to the “new policing,” these encounters often are unproductive and inefficient. They rarely result in arrest or seizure of contraband, and often provoke ill will between citizens and legal authorities that discourages citizen cooperation with police and compliance with law. In this chapter, we describe the range of potentially adverse reactions or harms that SQF or ‘street’ policing may produce. We next link those harms to a broader set of normative concerns that connect dignity, harm and police legitimacy. In the third section we review the evidence that connects citizen views of police – as well as their experience with police – to their perceptions of the legitimacy of the police and criminal legal institutions generally. We also review the evidence that links those perceptions to how citizens behave with respect to law, and identify the consequences of adverse reactions of citizens to harsh forms of street policing. We discuss alternative frameworks for regulation and democratic control of the new policing to link police legitimacy with guardianship of communities.


Criminal Law | Law | Law Enforcement and Corrections