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Title: The dynamics of police legitimacy and social media in Scotland
Author: Ralph, Liam David
ISNI:       0000 0004 9355 428X
Awarding Body: Edinburgh Napier University
Current Institution: Edinburgh Napier University
Date of Award: 2020
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Over the past decade, social media has been used by the police to aid police activity and to enhance its reputation. Central to these considerations is police legitimacy, as the police require the cooperation and compliance of citizens for policing to be effective. Accordingly, the current study examined police legitimacy and social media in Scotland. Fieldwork was carried out between November 2016 and September 2017 across three case study locations in Scotland. A range of methods were used, including: participant observation (n=134 hours) and semi-structured interviews (n=40) with police officers and police staff; focus groups with citizens (n=22); and online analysis of the social media platform Twitter (including five police Twitter accounts). The research findings demonstrate that police legitimacy on social media is understood by police officers, police staff, and citizens in accordance with an interplay between policing in physical and digital spaces, power dynamics, and interactions between instrumental (to do with tackling crime and increasing safety) and normative models of policing (how people are treated). This study makes three original and significant contributions to knowledge. Firstly, the study confirms Bottoms and Tankebe's (2012) dialogic approach to police legitimacy, and provides an empirical contribution to their notion that police authority is in flux and resembles an ongoing conversation between the police and citizens. Secondly, the study contributes to Bottoms and Tankebe's (2012) notion of power- holder legitimacy by showing that power is contested within the police organisation in connection to police social media practices, and that citizens have more power over the police on social media. Thirdly, the study contributes knowledge to procedural justice theory by demonstrating that police officers and staff also assess how citizens are procedurally fair towards them during encounters. Procedural justice features alongside perceptions of crime-fighting police roles in police and citizen narratives.
Supervisor: Aston, Elizabeth ; Wooff, Andrew ; Whitecross, Richard Sponsor: Edinburgh Napier University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: social media ; policing ; police legitimacy