Accountability and transparency as levers to promote public trust and police legitimacy: findings from a natural experiment

Tammy Rinehart Kochel*, Wesley G. Skogan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: This paper examines the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing's recommendation that police promote trust and legitimacy by creating a culture of transparency and accountability. Design/methodology/approach: The study is based on a panel survey of 841 Chicago residents that was interrupted between the waves by a momentous local policing event that proved to be known to virtually every participant. The reinterview period encompassed this event, its political repercussions and subsequent efforts to hold Chicago Police accountable and increase transparency. The authors examine whether these events and reform efforts improved African Americans' assessments of police legitimacy and trust relative to other respondents. Findings: Trust in Chicago Police improved by 21%, and trust in neighborhood police increased 30% among Black residents. In contrast, views of Whites became more negative, declining by 62% in their assessments about Chicago Police and by 39% regarding neighborhood police. Originality/value: Events occurring between the waves of a panel survey created an opportunity to examine the impact of events on residents of a large and diverse city. The authors discuss why reforms promoting transparency and police accountability can alter levels of trust in the police but in different and politically consequential ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1046-1059
Number of pages14
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 22 2021


  • 21st century policing
  • Accountability
  • Legitimacy
  • Misconduct
  • Transparency
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Public Administration
  • Law


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