The procedural justice intervention experiment was designed to assess the impact of a procedural justice intervention on police citizen encounters. The intervention was based on supervisory modeling of LEED principles (listen and explain with equity and dignity) during a review of a routine encounter to determine whether this low-cost intervention would translate to more procedurally just encounters.
Using a randomized design, this study relied on three innovations: 1) a new kind of Early Intervention System — the High Risk Circumstance (HRC) — model that identifies officers working in behavioral “hot spots:” 2) training sergeants on the concept of listening and explaining with equity and dignity (LEED), an approach to procedural justice, and asking the sergeants to meet with officers to discuss recent encounters (and in which sergeants modeled this technique); and 3) providing experimental evidence on the impact of a feasible procedural justice training program that is based on two practical and quantifiable performance metrics: officer activity and incident outcomes. Officers were selected using the new HRC model, and then were randomly assigned to receive the procedural justice intervention or to the control in order to test for the impact of this approach to institutionalizing procedural justice.
The officers who participated in supervisory meetings appeared to engage in encounters with citizens with equal frequency as their colleagues. However, those who participated in the meetings were roughly 26% less likely to resolve an incident with an arrest one week after having a meeting when compared to their colleagues who did not participate. This effect is reasonably persistent, and the results suggest that officers who participated in the LEED debriefs were 12% less likely overall to resolve incidents via an arrest over the six-week period after the supervisory meetings. The results also suggest that in the longer run, officers who participated in the meetings were over 30% less likely to be involved in a use of force incident.
Overall, we did not find evidence that officers who had additional non-disciplinary supervisory meetings were any more or less likely to respond to, initiate, or document CAD incidents relative to their peers who worked in similar situations. We also found no substantive change in the amount of time officers were officially on-scene in a given incident. Furthermore, we did not find evidence that officers who participated in the meetings were less likely to garner complaints from the public.
We conclude that non-disciplinary LEED based supervisory meetings are a promising strategy for improving police legitimacy. Officers who had at least one supervisory meeting over a six month period (in which they reviewed how they approached relatively standard citizen encounters) appeared to be less likely to engage in behaviors that, while central to policing, have the potential to reduce legitimacy when abused (e.g. making arrests and using force).
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) funded this procedural justice intervention program (Grant # 2012-IJ-CX-0009).
The findings from this study suggest that a procedural justice program can be implemented in law enforcement agencies rather simply and inexpensively while also potentially contributing to increased legitimacy. It is expected that agencies that want to institutionalize procedurally-just approaches can do so by implementing supervisory training at a minimal level, and maximize returns on that investment be encouraging supervisors to model procedurally just behaviors.
Final Report: Promoting Officer Integrity Through Early Engagements and Procedural Justice in the Seattle Police Department
Emily G. Owens, David Weisburd, Geoff Alpert, and Karen L. Amendola (May 2015).
Karen L. Amendola, PhD
Emily G. Owens, PhD
Procedural justice; high risk circumstance model; LEED; early warning systems; early intervention systems; hot spots policing; evidence-based policing; supervisory training