Ben Bradford

photo of Ben Bradford

Departmental Lecturer in Criminology

Ben's research focuses primarily on issues of trust and legitimacy as these apply to the police and the wider criminal justice system. International and cross-national comparisons of these issues are a growing research interest, and his work has a particular emphasis on procedural justice theory and the intersection of social-psychological and sociological explanatory paradigms. He has collaborated with the London Metropolitan Police, the College of Policing and other agencies on research projects concerned with improving police understanding of public opinions and priorities.



Publications

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Journal Articles

2014

Jonathan Jackson, Muhammed Asif, B Bradford and Muhammed Zakira Zakar, 'Corruption and Police Legitimacy in Lahore, Pakistan' (2014) 54 British Journal of Criminology 1067 [...]

DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azu069

Police legitimacy is an important topic of criminological research, yet it has received only sporadic study in societies where there is widespread police corruption, where the position of the police is less secure, and where social order is more tenuous. Analysing data from a probability sample survey of adults in Lahore, Pakistan, we examine the empirical links between people’s experience of police corruption, their perceptions of the fairness and effectiveness of the police, and their beliefs about the legitimacy of the police. Our findings suggest that in a context in which minimal effectiveness and integrity is yet to be established, police legitimacy may rest not just on the procedural fairness of officers, but also on their demonstrated ability to control crime and avoid corruption.


B Bradford, 'Policing and social identity: procedural justice, inclusion and cooperation between police and public' (2014) 24 Policing and Society 22 [...]

DOI: 10.1080/10439463.2012.724068

Accounts of the social meaning of policing and of the relationship between police and citizen converge on the idea that police behaviour carries important identity-relevant information. Opinions of and ideas about the police are implicated in the formation of social identities that relate to the social groups it represents – nation, state and community. Procedural justice theory suggests that judgements about the fairness of the police will be the most important factor in such processes. Fairness promotes a sense of inclusion and value, while unfairness communicates denigration and exclusion. Furthermore, positive social identities in relation to the police should on this account promote cooperation with it. This article presents an empirical test of these ideas in the context of the British policing. Data from a survey of young Londoners are used to show that perceptions of police fairness are indeed associated with social identity, and in turn social identity can be linked to cooperation. Yet these relationships were much stronger among those with multiple national identities. Police behaviour appeared more identity relevant for people who felt that they were citizens of a non-UK country, but for those who identified only as British there was a weaker link between procedural fairness and social identity, and here legitimacy judgements were the main ‘drivers’ of cooperation. Theoretical and policy implications are discussed.


B Bradford, K Murphy and J Jackson, 'Policing, Procedural Justice and the (Re)production of Social Identity' (2014) 54 British Journal of Criminology 527 [...]

DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azu021

Encounters with the criminal justice system shape people’s perceptions of the legitimacy of legal authorities, and the dominant explanatory framework for this relationship revolves around the idea that procedurally just practice increases people’s positive connections to justice institutions. But there have been few assessments of the idea – central to procedural justice theory – that social identity acts as an important social-psychological bridge in this process. Our contribution in this paper is to examine the empirical links between procedural justice, social identity and legitimacy in the context of policing in Australia. A representative two-wave panel survey of Australians suggests that social identity does mediate the association between procedural justice and perceptions of legitimacy. It seems that when people feel fairly treated by police, their sense of identification with the superordinate group the police represent is enhanced, strengthening police legitimacy as a result. By contrast, unfair treatment signals to people that they do not belong, undermining both identification and police legitimacy.


B Bradford and Paul Quinton, 'Self-legitimacy, police culture and support for democratic policing in an English Constabulary' (2014) 54 British Journal of Criminology 1023 [...]

DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azu053

When do police officers feel confident in their own authority? What factors influence their sense of their own legitimacy? What is the effect of such ‘self-legitimacy’ on the way they think about policing? This article addresses these questions using a survey of police officers working in an English Constabulary. We find that the most powerful predictor of officers’ confidence in their own authority is identification with their organization, itself something strongly associated with perceptions of the procedural justice of senior management. A greater sense of self-legitimacy is in turn linked to greater commitment to democratic modes of policing. Finally, we find that this sense of legitimacy is embedded in a matrix of identities and cultural adaptations within the police organization.


B Bradford and Andy Myhill, 'Triggers of change to public confidence in the police and criminal justice system: Findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales panel experiment' (2014) Criminology and Criminal Justice (forthcoming) [...]

DOI: 10.1177/1748895814521825

Accounts of public ‘trust and confidence’ in criminal justice agencies often fall into one of two camps. Instrumental accounts suggest that people trust police and the criminal justice system (CJS) when they believe them to be effective in fighting crime and reducing offending. Expressive or affective accounts, by contrast, suggest people place as much or more emphasis on the social meaning of justice institutions as on their instrumental activities. In this article we add to recent studies that have sought to weigh up the balance between instrumental and expressive factors. Using data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales panel experiment, we present evidence that trust in police and the wider CJS is implicated in public concerns about the nature of local order and cohesion. The expressive account appears to offer a better understanding of why people may grant trust to, or withdraw trust from, the police and the CJS.


B Bradford, A Huq, J Jackson and B Roberts, 'What price fairness when security is at stake? Police legitimacy in South Africa' (2014) 8 Regulation and Governance 246 [...]

DOI: 10.1111/rego.12012

The legitimacy of legal authorities – particularly the police – is central to the state's ability to function in a normatively justifiable and effective manner. Studies, mostly conducted in the US and UK, regularly find that procedural justice is the most important antecedent of police legitimacy, with judgments about other aspects of police behavior – notably, about effectiveness – appearing less relevant. But this idea has received only sporadic testing in less cohesive societies where social order is more tenuous, resources to sustain it scarcer, and the position of the police is less secure. This paper considers whether the link between process fairness and legitimacy holds in the challenging context of present day South Africa. In a high crime and socially divided society, do people still emphasize procedural fairness or are they more interested in instrumental effectiveness? How is the legitimacy of the police influenced by the wider problems faced by the South African state? We find procedural fairness judgments play a key role, but also that South Africans place greater emphasis on police effectiveness (and concerns about crime). Police legitimacy is, furthermore, associated with citizens' judgments about the wider success and trustworthiness of the state.


B Bradford, P Quinton, A Myhill and G Porter, 'Why do ‘the law’ comply? Procedural justice, group identification and officer motivation in police organizations' (2014) 11 European Journal of Criminology 110 [...]

DOI: 10.1177/1477370813491898

How can police officers be encouraged to commit to changing organizational and personal practice? In this paper we test organizational justice theories that suggest that fair processes and procedures enhance rule compliance and commitment to the organization and its goals. We pay particular attention to (a) tensions between the role of group identity in organizational justice models and classic concerns about ‘cop culture’; and (b) the danger of over-identification with the organization and the counterproductive types of compliance this may engender. Results suggest that organizational justice enhances identification with the police organization, encourages officers to take on new roles, increases positive views of community policing, and is associated with greater self-reported compliance. Identification with the organization has generally positive implications; however, there is some danger that process fairness may encourage unthinking compliance with orders and instructions.


2013

J Jackson, A Huq, B Bradford and TR Tyler, 'Monopolizing Force? Police Legitimacy and Public Attitudes Toward the Acceptability of Violence' (2013) 19 Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 479 [...]

DOI: 10.1037/a0033852

Why do people believe that violence is acceptable? In this article, the authors study people’s normative beliefs about the acceptability of violence to achieve social control (as a substitute for the police, for self-protection and the resolution of disputes) and social change (through violent protests and acts to achieve political goals). Addressing attitudes toward violence among young men from various ethnic minority communities in London, the authors find that procedural justice is strongly correlated with police legitimacy, and that positive judgments about police legitimacy are associated with more negative views about the use of violence. They conclude with the idea that police legitimacy has an additional, hitherto unrecognized, empirical property—by constituting the belief that the police monopolise rightful force in society, legitimacy has a “crowding out” effect on positive views of private violence.


A Myhill and B Bradford, 'Overcoming cop culture? Organizational justice and police officers’ attitudes toward the public' (2013) 36 Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management 338 [...]

DOI: 10.1108/13639511311329732

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to test theories of organizational justice in the context of a police agency. Design/methodology/approach – Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) was used to analyze data from a survey of officers in a police force in England. Findings – The SEM showed that organizational justice was associated with positive attitudes towards serving members of the public. This relationship was mediated by commitment to elements of community policing and, for community police officers, by general satisfaction with the organization. Practical implications – The findings suggest that police managers committed to implementing process-based policing policies may need to ensure their organizations also implement internal policies and practices that are procedurally fair. Originality/value – This study is one of the first to apply the well established literature on organizational justice to the context of policing, and the first to examine the impact of organizational justice on alignment with community policing and the service model.


M Hough, J Jackson and B Bradford, 'The drivers of police legitimacy: some European research' (2013) 8 Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism 144 [...]

DOI: 10.1080/18335330.2013.821735

This article summarises some of the thinking and empirical findings behind a programme of survey work on procedural justice theory in Europe. The paper locates procedural justice theory in a framework of compliance theories and sketches out the main features of it, defining the central concept of legitimacy. It then presents the findings from the fifth European Social Survey, drawing on a ‘trust in justice’ module that was designed by the authors and colleagues. This provides a good support for the procedural justice hypotheses that we set out to test—that different types of public trust in the police (trust that they are effective, procedurally fair and distributively fair) are related to public perceptions of police legitimacy, which in turn are related to self-reported compliance with the law and preparedness to cooperate with the police.


2012

EA Stanko, J Jackson, B Bradford and K Hohl, 'A golden thread, a presence amongst uniforms, and a good deal of data: studying public confidence in the London Metropolitan Police' (2012) 22 Policing and Society [...]

DOI: 10.1080/10439463.2012.671825

This article discusses how four authors came together to create – inside a police service – a specific approach to public ‘trust and confidence’. We have had many theoretical debates – about the nature of public understanding of policing, police culture, procedural justice and public trust in public institutions in a democracy. Also, while we continue to debate, we wade through mounds of data gathered routinely through the Metropolitan Police's own Public Attitude Survey. Reporting internally on a quarterly basis, the survey challenges police colleagues to think about how the police must demonstrate to citizens their trustworthiness to act fairly, effectively and with the best interests of communities at heart. Our experience of moulding the discourse about public confidence inside the largest police service in the UK suggests that police culture itself has been challenged by the accountability that lies at the heart of trust and trustworthiness. We have been asked by the editors of this issue to share with readers how we have come to create a contribution to understanding what drives confidence in policing, which is now a routine part of its performance management.


A Myhill and B Bradford, 'Can police enhance public confidence by improving quality of service? Results from two surveys in England and Wales' (2012) 22 Policing and Society [...]

DOI: 10.1080/10439463.2011.641551

Public opinions of the police have been a fixture at the top of the policy agenda in England and Wales in recent years, with successive governments stating they wish to see improvements in �trust and confidence�. But significant doubts remain as to how this might be done, and even if it is possible for police to enhance public confidence in any straightforward way. Indeed, it often seems that it is much easier for police to damage public opinion than to improve it. This paper reports findings from two surveys on contact between the public and the police conducted in England and Wales. First, panel data are used to examine the issue of �asymmetry� in the relationship between satisfaction with police contacts and wider public confidence in the police. Negative pre-existing opinions of the police are found to be predictive of negatively received contact, while positive views do not predict well-received contact. Yet, single contacts, both negative and positive, are predictive of subsequent confidence in the police. Second, British Crime Survey data are used to investigate what �drives� satisfaction among crime victims. Personal treatment appears to be valued over criminal justice outcomes, providing support for process-based policing models. It appears that fears about an absolute asymmetry in the effect of contact on confidence may be overstated, and that improving the way officers handle encounters might lead to enhanced trust and confidence.


J Jackson and others, 'Why do People Comply with the Law?: Legitimacy and the Influence of Legal Institutions' (2012) 52 British Journal of Criminology [...]

DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azs032

This paper extends Tyler’s procedural justice model of public compliance with the law. Analysing data from a national probability sample of adults in England and Wales, we present a new conceptualization of legitimacy based on not just the recognition of power, but also the justification of power. We find that people accept the police’s right to dictate appropriate behaviour not only when they feel a duty to obey officers, but also when they believe that the institution acts according to a shared moral purpose with citizens. Highlighting a number of different routes by which institutions can influence citizen behaviour, our broader normative model provides a better framework for explaining why people are willing to comply with the law.


ISBN: 0007-0955

2011

B Bradford, 'Convergence not divergence? Trends and trajectories in public contact and confidence in the police' (2011) 51 The British Journal of Criminology 179 [...]

DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azq078

Public trust and confidence are vital to the police function. There has been much comment and debate about the apparent decline in confidence in the British police since the 1950s, most frequently evidenced by data from the British Crime Survey (BCS). Yet, there has been relatively little in-depth interrogation of the data at the heart of the discussion. Pooling data from 11 sweeps of the BCS (1984 to 2005/06), this paper shows a homogenization over time in trends in trust and confidence and experiences of encounters with the police. This pattern is found across both age and ethnicity, and can also be identified in other variables. The story that emerges therefore differs from analyses that emphasize the increasingly diffuse and variable nature of public experiences of the police.


ISBN: 0007-0955

J Jackson and others, 'Developing European indicators of trust in justice ' (2011) 8 European Journal of Criminology [...]

Like other modern-day democracies, Belgium has in the last quarter century introduced many changes in its system for justice administration, by undertaking judicial reforms and commissioning empirical research on public confidence. Following long years of fierce criticism of the police and the criminal justice system since the late 1980s, the turn of the century witnessed three quantitative surveys (the Justice Barometers) in 2002, 2007 and 2010. These were complemented by several qualitative studies in specific districts or with specific groups. Although many variables appear to exert some influence on public confidence, the one that emerges time and again is the degree of contact with the justice system and the ensuing negative perceptions that result from it. This contribution describes the most salient findings of this decade of public opinion research on the criminal justice system in Belgium and reflects on the implications for judicial policy-making.


A Myhill and others, 'It Depends What You Mean by Confident: Operationalizing Measures of Public Confidence and the Role of Performance Indicators' (2011) 5 Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice 114 [...]

DOI: 10.1093/police/par027

Centralized performance frameworks for the police in England and Wales have been the subject of considerable debate. Evidence from both the British Crime Survey and local force surveys shows that setting performance targets for public confidence in the police based on single indicator survey measures can have conceptual and practical difficulties. Specifically, such measures can misrepresent the views of some respondents and might underestimate public support for the police. We argue in favour of local public attitudes surveys reconfigured to measure aspects of procedural fairness, police legitimacy, and public intentions to co-operate.


B Bradford, 'Voice neutrality and respect: Use of Victim Support services procedural fairness and confidence in the Criminal Justice System' (2011) Criminology and Criminal Justice [...]

DOI: 10.1177/1748895811408832

Public confidence in the criminal justice system (CJS) is a topic of perennial concern across the United Kingdom, particularly in light of the relatively low levels of confidence reported in the British Crime Survey (BCS) and elsewhere. Recent work on policing has stressed that the experience of procedural fairness is an important influence on ‘user-satisfaction’, trust and legitimacy. Yet it is unclear whether this emphasis on fairness applies to the CJS as a whole, which many might see as primarily there to manage — and punish — offenders as efficiently as possible. This article reports on analysis of the BCS that suggests contact with Victim Support is linked to more favourable views of the fairness of the CJS and to higher levels of confidence in its effectiveness. By providing victims with voice and a sense that someone is listening to and taking their concerns seriously, contact with VS seems to be linked to more favourable overall assessments of the CJS. A space is therefore opened up for approaches to enhancing public confidence that do not rely on ever more punitive policies, or on the arguably Sisyphean task of convincing the public that extant policies are punitive enough.


ISBN: 1748-8958

2010

K Hohl, B Bradford and EA Stanko, 'Influencing trust and confidence in the London Metropolitan Police: results from an experiment testing the effect of leaflet-drops on public opinion' (2010) 50 The British Journal of Criminology 491 [...]

DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azq005

Enhancing trust and confidence has moved to the centre of policing policy in England and Wales. The association between direct encounters with police officers and confidence in the police is well-established. But is it possible for the police to increase confidence among the general population including those people who do not routinely come into direct contact with police officers? This paper presents the findings from a quasi-randomised experiment conducted on population representative samples in seven London wards that assessed the impact of a leaflet drop on public perceptions of policing. The results provide strong evidence of an improvement in overall confidence, and in perceptions of police–community engagement, specifically. The leaflets also appear to have had a buffering effect against declines in public assessments of police effectiveness. The findings support the idea that public trust and confidence can be enhanced by direct police communication of this type.


ISBN: 0007-0955

J Jackson and others, 'Legitimacy and procedural justice in prisons' (2010) 191 Prison Service Journal 4

J Jackson and B Bradford, 'Measuring public confidence in the police: Is the PSA23 target fit for purpose?' (2010) 4 Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice 241

M Hough and others, 'Procedural justice trust and institutional legitimacy' (2010) 4 Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice 203

2009

EA Stanko and B Bradford, 'Beyond measuring "how good a job" police are doing: the MPS model of confidence in policing' (2009) 3 Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice 332

B Bradford, J Jackson and EA Stanko, 'Contact and confidence: Revisiting the impact of public encounters with the police' (2009) 19 Policing and Society 20

J Jackson and B Bradford, 'Crime, policing and the moral order: On the expressive nature of public confidence in policing' (2009) 60 The British Journal of Sociology 493

J Jackson, B Bradford, K Hohl and S Farrall, 'Does the fear of crime erode public confidence in policing?' (2009) 3 Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice 100

B Bradford, EA Stanko and J Jackson, 'Public encounters with the police: On the use of public opinion surveys to improve contact and confidence' (2009) 3 Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice 139

Books

2012

J Jackson, B Bradford, EA Stanko and K Hohl, Just Authority? Trust in the Police in England and Wales (Routledge 2012)

Chapters

2014

B Bradford, J Jackson and M Hough, 'Police legitimacy in action: lessons for theory and practice' in M Reisig and R Kane (eds), Oxford handbook of police and policing (Oxford University Press 2014) (forthcoming)

2013

B Bradford, J Jackson and M Hough, 'Police futures and legitimacy: Redefining ‘good policing’' in J Brown (ed), The Future of Policing (Routledge 2013)

TR Tyler, J Jackson and B Bradford, 'Psychology of procedural justice and cooperation' in Gerben Bruinsma and David Weisburd (eds), Encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice (Springer 2013) (forthcoming)

M Hough, J Jackson and B Bradford, 'The governance of criminal justice, legitimacy and trust' in Sophie Body-Gendrot, Mike Hough, Klara Kerezsi, Rene Levy and Sonja Snacken (eds), The Routledge handbook of European criminology (Routledge 2013)

2012

J Jackson, B Bradford, M Hough and KH Murray, 'Compliance with the law and policing by consent: notes on police and legal legitimacy' in Adam Crawford and Anthea Hucklesby (eds), Legitimacy and compliance in criminal justice ( 2012)


News

Mounted police units 'boost public trust'

Researchers have measured the value of mounted police units in the UK […]

Making and Breaking Barriers - assessing the value of mounted police units in the UK

Making and Breaking Barriers - assessing the value of mounted police units in the UK

Research work by Ben Bradford is the subject of a new impact case study, one of a series of impact stories on the Oxford University impact pages and on the new Oxford Law Faculty Public Engagement and Research Impacts webpage, where you can read about just a few examples of the wide-reaching impact of research conducted in the Law Faculty and its Research Centres […]

Making and Breaking Barriers: Assessing the value of mounted police units in the UK

Ben Bradford has been awarded a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to research mounted police in the UK, the 12 month project, which is being run in conjunction with RAND and the Association of Chief Police Officers, starts in October 2013 […]

Interests

Research: Trust and confidence in the police and criminal justice system; procedural justice; organizational justice; legitimacy; cross-national comparisons.

Other details

Director of Graduate Studies (Research): Criminology

Correspondence address:

Centre for Criminology
Manor Road Building
Manor Road
Oxford OX1 3UQ

Link to personal web site






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