Abstract

This article examines how young people conceptualize typical narratives of fair and unfair treatment by police and security guards. It offers new insights for procedural justice research of how to constitute trust between citizens and authorities by including private security and by using qualitative methods. 31 youths in 9 focus groups continued stories towards (1) fair and (2) unfair encounters. The key difference in these stories was related to how authorities treat people. Fair narratives consisted of peaceful and predictable interactions and mutual respect. Intervening did not challenge trust when young people perceived that the control agents’ work task legitimated the intervention. Unfair narratives consisted of impolite and aggressive treatment. Narratives about the police were closer to fair treatment than narratives about security guards. The article also suggests that prior procedural justice research has neglected the importance of the emotional state of the control agent: ideal control agents had an ability to be empathetic and to control their negative emotions. The findings support the procedural justice in highlighting the importance of fair treatment.

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