Police legitimacy, trustworthiness, and associations with intimate partner violence

Lisa Fedina, Bethany L. Backes, Hyun Jin Jun, Jordan DeVylder, Richard P. Barth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to understand the relationship among police legitimacy/trust and experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV), including victims’ decisions to report IPV to police and police responses to IPV. Design/methodology/approach: Data were drawn from the 2017 Survey of Police–Public Encounters II – a cross-sectional, general population survey of adults from New York City and Baltimore (n=1,000). Regression analyses were used to examine associations among police legitimacy/trust, IPV exposure, police reporting of IPV, and perceived police responses to IPV and interaction effects. Findings: Higher levels of IPV exposure were significantly associated with lower levels of police legitimacy/trust; however, this relationship was stronger among African–American participants than non-African–American participants. Higher levels of police legitimacy/trust were significantly associated with more positive police responses to IPV and this relationship was stronger among heterosexual participants than sexual minority participants. Research limitations/implications: Future research should examine prospective relationships to understand causal mechanisms linking individual perceptions of police legitimacy/trust, experiences with IPV and victims’ interactions with police. Practical implications: Low levels of legitimacy/trust between police and citizens may result, in part, if police are engaged in negative or inadequate responses to reports of IPV. Police–social work partnerships can enhance effective police responses to IPV, particularly to racial/ethnic and sexual minority individuals. Originality/value: This study provides empirical evidence linking police legitimacy/trust to the experiences of IPV and perceived police responses to reports of IPV, including important group differences among victims based on race/ethnicity and sexual orientation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)901-916
Number of pages16
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2 2019


  • Domestic violence
  • Police legitimacy
  • Police–community relations
  • Trust in police

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Public Administration
  • Law


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