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Don't Jump the Shark: Understanding Deterrence and Legitimacy in the Architecture of Law Enforcement - Interview With Tracey Meares

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2010
2 pages
This is a video and transcript of an interview with Tracey Mears, following her presentation, "Don't Jump the Shark: Understanding Deterrence and Legitimacy in the Architecture of Law Enforcement," as part of NIJ's Real World Seminar series.
The first part of the interview explains how effective policing is enlightened by recent research. The research shows that policing effectiveness relies less on deterrence (the fear of punishment) and more on "legitimacy" which occurs as the police enforce the law fairly and without bias within the law and rules that limit police powers. The interview also addresses how police conduct affects outcomes in their interactions with individuals in the course of enforcing the law. Respect, courtesy, and restraint by police encourage cooperation and increased respect for the law as police explain how a particular law violation threatens public safety. Whereas deterrence relies on impressing people with what the criminal justice system will do to them when they break the law, an emphasis on legitimacy by police means focusing on why complying with the law that is being enforced makes everyone safer. A citizenry motivated to obey the law out of concern for the safety and well-being of others is more cost-effective than a deterrence approach that relies on the pervasive presence of police to make people afraid to break the law.

Date Published: November 1, 2010