European Journal of Policing Studies


Spatial Relations and Police Legitimacy in a Digitally Mediated World

Keywords legitimacy, space, community policing, technology
Authors Melissa Bull, Jasper De Paepe, Tyler Cawthray en Marleen Easton
Author's information

Melissa Bull
Melissa Bull, Professor, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.

Jasper De Paepe
Jasper De Paepe, Leiden University, Netherlands, and Ghent University, Belgium.

Tyler Cawthray
Tyler Cawthray, Assistant Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Bond University, Australia.

Marleen Easton
Marleen Easton, Professor, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Belgium.
  • Abstract

      Cawthray and Bull in their study titled, “The Spatial Dimension of Police Legitimacy: An Exploration of Two Pacific Island States”, map the significance of spatial relationships – defined in terms of physical or geographical distance and social distance – in their analysis of police legitimacy in rural and remote contexts. They demonstrate the importance of connecting spatial relationships with police legitimacy by analysing empirical data from two Pacific island case studies. Their conclusion suggest that the relationship should be tested across a broader range of cases that include Global North, urban and virtual settings. This article takes up this challenge by focusing on the spatial relations of police legitimacy in urban settings embedded in a digitally mediated world. Our secondary analysis of ethnographic observational and interview data collected in neighbourhood policing settings in Belgium demonstrates how the proximity or distance between police officers in their interactions with both officers and citizens, whether constituted in neighbourhood settings or digital domains, can be linked to conceptualizations of police legitimacy. We argue that contextually defined elements of spatiality (physical, social or virtual) should be considered in assessments of how perceptions of police legitimacy shape interactions between police officers and citizens.

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