The role of the American police is to work for and with the communities they serve. The relationship between police and community, however, has not always been a positive one. In recent decades, police organizations throughout the United States have attempted various approaches to addressing the problem. Most recently, they have been focused on improving that relationship by enhancing their legitimacy. This practice is commonly known as the process-based model of policing: theoretically, a procedurally just interaction will enhance legitimacy, which in turn will enhance willingness to cooperate with the police. The benefit for police agencies in enhancing legitimacy lies in the idea that when the police are perceived as a legitimate entity, the public will be more likely to cooperate with them. Enhancing police legitimacy also offers benefits for the public, as this is preceded by a procedurally just interaction.
The goal of this dissertation is to assess the applicability of the process-based model of policing to an under-studied population: Hispanics and undocumented immigrants residing within Maricopa County, Arizona. The analysis for this dissertation uses data from two different sources: a sample of Maricopa County residents (n=854) and a sample of Maricopa County arrestees (n=2268). These data are used to assess three research questions. The first research question focuses on assessing the applicability of the process-based model of regulation as a theoretical framework to study this population. The second research question compares Hispanic and White respondents’ views of procedural justice, police legitimacy, and how these perceptions relate to their willingness to cooperate with the police. The last research question examines the differences between undocumented immigrants’ and U.S. citizens’ perceptions of procedural justice, police legitimacy, and how these perceptions relate to their willingness to cooperate with the police. In doing so, this study examined the convergent and discriminant validity of key theoretical constructs. Among several notable findings, the results show that the process-based model of regulation is a promising framework within which to assess perceptions of the police. However, the framework was only supported by the sample of arrestees. Implications for theory, practice, and suggestions for future research are discussed.