PhD literature review and books

I have recently finalised the literature review of my thesis and browsing through the references made me realise which are the books that I found most influential when it comes to procedural justice policing. Here is a selection of six books which could serve as a springboard for anyone who is getting newly acquainted with/wants to get deeper into the literature.

This list could be hardly complete without mentioning Tyler’s seminal work which has been re-released in 2006. Having re-read a couple of chapters, I was stunned how fresh this book has remained. There are a few paragraphs in the ‘Psychology of Procedural Justice’ chapter which could be included in any current literature review on the topic and others that have clearly inspired whole research agendas since the publication of the book.

As a next step, I would read Jackson et al.’s (2013) monograph. This book merges theory and practice positioning the question of procedural justice not only geographically (i.e., how and whether procedural justice and legitimacy are nested?) but also in the policy realm. The chapters on the influence of mass media and on ethnic minorities are still pertinent starting points for anyone who is interested in either of these topics. I love this book not only for the theoretical overview it provides but also because it is data driven with plenty of exciting empirical examples to illustrate the nature and importance of procedural justice in policing.

As a final, more mainstream intro, I would recommend Bradford’s (2017) excellent work on police stop and search and police legitimacy. The narrower focus of this book is justified by the procedural justice literature which argues that police-citizen encounters provide ‘teachable moments’ that shape how people think and assess the procedural justice and legitimacy of the police. Bradford gives an excellent historical and policy overview primarily from a policing perspective catering to policing scholars in general.

A more unusual pick for this list is Wacquant’s (2009) book. I like to revisit this from time-to-time for three reasons. First, it provides a harrowing example of how political agendas can trump and hijack evidence-based policy-making. Second, even when the evidence seems to be there – like with zero-tolerance policing – it can never be judged in isolation, as it is clearly demonstrated in the third chapter of the book where the author compares crime trends in Boston (where zero tolerance wasn’t implemented) and New York (where it was) finding very similar trends. Finally, this book takes a more sociological perspective focussing on structural and institutional factors which are typically in the background in the procedural justice literature.

I would recommend Epp et al.’s (2014) book for two reasons. First, it puts an emphasis on something that is rarely discussed in the procedural justice literature, possibly because it is very difficult to measure: that each police-citizen encounter occurs in a broader context that is influenced by race, history, socialisation, etc. Second, by taking a mixed-methods approach of both looking at statistics and carrying out interviews, the book comes close to what one could call the ‘ethnography’ of roadside checks. Even though I don’t share several of their criticisms of the procedural justice literature, their commentary is often refreshing and sometimes points to real gaps in the literature that need to be further explored.

Last but not least, I would also suggest Worden and McLean’s (2017) book. The authors collaborate with police departments and try to put their finger on how police reforms are (and should be) implemented, the expectations of officers and citizens, and how and whether these changes can be successful. It is a very enjoyable read especially because they vividly outline the challenges of working with police forces. This book is a cautionary tale that it is probably unrealistic to expect sweeping and radical changes even with the best of intentions. This is where the book is the least convincing in my opinion: the authors only look at a very small time window which makes some of their criticisms of the procedural justice literature ring a little hollow. A very instructive book nonetheless with excellent insights and rigorous empirical work.


Bradford, B. (2017). Stop and Search and Police Legitimacy. Routledge.
Epp, C. R., Maynard-Moody, S., & Haider-Markel, D. P. (2014). Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship. University of Chicago Press.
Jackson, J., Bradford, B., Stanko, E., & Hohl, K. (2013). Just Authority? – Trust in the Police in England and Wales. Routledge.

Tyler, T. R. (2006). Why people obey the law. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Wacquant, L. (2009). Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity. Duke University Press.
Worden, R. E., & McLean, S. J. (2017). Mirage of Police Reform: Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy. University of California Press.

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