Published: November 20, 2019

Zahnow, R., Mazerolle, L., & Pang, A. (2019). Do Individual Differences Matter in the Way People View Police Legitimacy? A Partial Replication and Extension of Invariance Thesis. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice.


Renee Zahnow, Lorraine Mazerolle, and Alicia Pang.


The invariance thesis of police legitimacy argues that, regardless of individual differences, the more citizens perceive police as procedurally just and effective, the more they will see the police as a legitimate authority. Research primarily undertaken in the USA shows support for the invariance thesis with some nuanced findings for victims and those with prior police contact. This study conducts a partial replication and extension of the Wolfe et al.’s study (Wolfe, S., Nix, J., Kaminski, R., and Rojek, J., 2016). ‘Is the Effect of Procedural Justice on Police Legitimacy Invariant? Testing the Generality of Procedural Justice and Competing Antecedents of Legitimacy.’ Journal of Quantitative Criminology 32(2): 253–282) testing the invariance thesis, comparing the effects of citizen perceptions of procedural justice (PJ) and police effectiveness (PE) on perceptions of police legitimacy across individual characteristics in Australia. Using a survey of 4,167 residents across 148 communities, we find the effects of PJ perceptions on police legitimacy are largely invariant across individual differences. Yet contrary to previous research, our study finds that the impact of PE perceptions is not invariant and particularly matter for people with visible minority status.