Public servants, self-legitimacy, and trust: Police

This study explores how police officers publicly justify their political power, the internal beliefs they adopt to exercise their authority, and how this self-legitimation process affects the police service. Self-legitimacy is important insofar as it relates to the police officer’s identification with his or her organization. A strong identity may promote the internalization of organizational goals among police officers as well as the perception that they have the organizational support to attain such goals. In return, it grants the police organization better conditions to influence the attitudes of police officers towards policing as well as their behavior “on the street”. Therefore, the quality of the structure of the police organization and its processes becomes a crucial factor for understanding the identity constructed by agents as to what it means “to be a police officer” as well as to understand the actions they adopt and the values that support such actions.

The research investigates two police institutions: The Civil Police and the Military Police of the State of São Paulo. The focus lies on police officers from both institutions that work in the end activity, thus exercising their authority in the everyday contact with the population. In 2016, questionnaires were applied to police officers belonging to eight police units (Civil Police Precincts and Military Police Companies) in the city of São Paulo. The survey addressed the internal relationships between superiors and subordinates, between peers, and within the institution as a whole; the relationship between the institution and the public, obedience, and compliance with the law; personal perceptions regarding their identity with the organization, policing, human rights, etc. In addition to the quantitative data, the research also makes use of qualitative data.


Production date: 2013 - Atual
Sponsor(s): FAPESP
People: Bruna Gisi
Renato Alves
Viviane Cubas
Frederico Castelo Branco Teixeira
Gabriel Funari
Fernanda Novaes Cruz
Giane Silvestre
Researchers: Cecília Magalhães e Ribeiro Penteado