Perception of police legitimacy among private security officers

  • Seung Yeop Paek
  • Mahesh K. Nalla
  • Julak LeeEmail author
Original Article


The private security market is growing around the world, and public police are no longer the predominant agents of order maintenance and crime prevention. This development has important implications as different policing agents come in contact with each other. Specifically, understanding how they view each other can help increase the benefits of today’s paradigm of security governance. Despite abundant research on citizen perceptions of police, few studies explore private security officers’ opinions about their public counterparts. Therefore, this research explores private security officers’ perceptions of the police in South Korea. Results show that the respondents’ attitudes toward police performance and distributive and procedural justice have varying influences on the three dimensions of police legitimacy: Obligation to obey, trust, and normative alignment. Additionally, the authors suggest the police should understand that private security officers’ perceptions of police legitimacy are influenced by distinct factors depending on contact experience and employment type.


Private security industry Nodal governance of security South Korea Police legitimacy Public–private cooperation in policing 


  1. Anter, A. 2014. Max Weber’s Theory of the Modern State: Origins, structure and significance. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Ashford, S.J., C. Lee, and P. Bobko. 1989. Content, cause, and consequences of job insecurity: A theory-based measure and substantive test. Academy of Management Journal 32 (4): 803–829.Google Scholar
  3. Ayling, J. 2007. Force multiplier: People as a policing resource. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 31 (1): 73–100.Google Scholar
  4. Bayley, D.H., and C.D. Shearing. 1996. The future of policing. Law and Society Review 30 (3): 585–606.Google Scholar
  5. Beetham, D. 1991. The legitimation of power. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  6. Berg, J., and S. Howell. 2017. The private security complex and its regulation in Africa: Select examples from the continent. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 41 (4): 273–286.Google Scholar
  7. Blackstone, E.A., and S. Hakim. 2013. Competition versus monopoly in the provision of police. Security Journal 26 (2): 157–179.Google Scholar
  8. Bottoms, A., and J. Tankebe. 2012. Beyond procedural justice: A dialogic approach to legitimacy in criminal justice. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 102 (1): 119–170.Google Scholar
  9. Bovaird, T. 2004. Public–private partnerships: From contested concepts to prevalent practice. International Review of Administrative Sciences 70 (2): 199–215.Google Scholar
  10. Brinkerhoff, D.W., and J.M. Brinkerhoff. 2011. Public–private partnerships: Perspectives on purposes, publicness, and good governance. Public Administration and Development 31 (1): 2–14.Google Scholar
  11. Button, M., and H. Park. 2009. Security officers and the policing of private space in South Korea: Profile, powers and occupational hazards. Policing and Society 19 (3): 247–262.Google Scholar
  12. Button, M., H. Park, and J. Lee. 2006. The private security industry in South Korea: A familiar tale of growth, gaps and the need for better regulation. Security Journal 19 (3): 167–179.Google Scholar
  13. Button, M., and P. Stiernstedt. 2017. The evolution of security industry regulation in the European Union. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 41 (4): 245–257.Google Scholar
  14. Cheurprakobkit, S. 2000. Police–citizen contact and police performance attitudinal differences between Hispanics and non-Hispanics. Journal of Criminal Justice 28 (4): 325–336.Google Scholar
  15. Greenhalgh, L. 1983. Managing the job insecurity crisis. Human Resource Management 22 (4): 431–444.Google Scholar
  16. Griffiths, C.T., and L.T. Winfree. 1982. Attitudes toward the police: A comparison of Canadian and American adolescents. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 6 (1–2): 127–141.Google Scholar
  17. Gurinskaya, A., and M.K. Nalla. 2018. The expanding boundaries of crime control: Governing security through regulation. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 679 (1): 36–54.Google Scholar
  18. Hinds, L., and K. Murphy. 2007. Public satisfaction with police: Using procedural justice to improve police legitimacy. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology 40 (1): 27–42.Google Scholar
  19. Hwang, E.G., E.F. McGarrell, and B.L. Benson. 2005. Public satisfaction with the South Korean Police: The effect of residential location in a rapidly industrializing nation. Journal of Criminal Justice 33 (6): 585–599.Google Scholar
  20. Jackson, J., B. Bradford, M. Hough, A. Myhill, P. Quinton, and T.R. Tyler. 2012. Why do people comply with the law? Legitimacy and the influence of legal institutions. British Journal of Criminology 52 (6): 1051–1071.Google Scholar
  21. Jacob, H. 1971. Black and white perceptions of justice in the city. Law and Society Review 6 (1): 69–90.Google Scholar
  22. Johnson, C., T.J. Dowd, and C.L. Ridgeway. 2006. Legitimacy as a social process. Annual Review of Sociology 32: 53–78.Google Scholar
  23. Johnston, L. 1992. The rebirth of private policing. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Johnston, L., and C. Shearing. 2003. Governing security: Explorations in policing and justice. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Joo, H.J. 2003. Crime and crime control. Social Indicators Research 62 (63): 239–263.Google Scholar
  26. Korea National Police Agency. 2017. Police statistical yearbook 2016.
  27. Lee, C.M. 2004. Accounting for rapid growth of private policing in South Korea. Journal of Criminal Justice 32 (2): 113–122.Google Scholar
  28. Mayer, R.C., J.H. Davis, and F.D. Schoorman. 1995. An integrative model of organizational trust. Academy of Management Review 20 (3): 709–734.Google Scholar
  29. Ministry of Employment and Labor. 2015. Yearbook of employment and labor statistics. Accessed 10 March 2017.
  30. Moon, B. 2004. The politicization of police in South Korea: A critical review. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management 27 (1): 128–136.Google Scholar
  31. Murphy, K., L. Hinds, and J. Fleming. 2008. Encouraging public cooperation and support for police. Policing and Society 18 (2): 136–155.Google Scholar
  32. Nalla, M.K., and A. Gurinskaya. 2017. Common past-different paths: Exploring state regulation of private security industry in Eastern Europe and post-Soviet republics. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 41 (4): 305–321.Google Scholar
  33. Nalla, M.K., and E. Hwang. 2004. Assessing professionalism, goals, images, and nature of private security in South Korea. Asian Policing 2 (1): 104–121.Google Scholar
  34. Nalla, M.K., and E.G. Hwang. 2006. Relations between police and private security officers in South Korea. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management 29 (3): 482–497.Google Scholar
  35. Nalla, M.K., and G. Meško. 2015. What shapes security guards’ trust in police? The role of perceived obligation to obey, procedural fairness, distributive justice, and legal cynicism. Revija za kriminalistiko in kriminologijo/Ljubljana 66 (4): 307–319.Google Scholar
  36. Nalla, M., and G.R. Newman. 1990. A primer in private security. New York: Harrow and Heston.Google Scholar
  37. Nix, J. 2017. Do the police believe that legitimacy promotes cooperation from the public? Crime and Delinquency 63 (8): 951–975.Google Scholar
  38. Papachristos, A.V., T.L. Meares, and J. Fagan. 2012. Why do criminals obey the law? The influence of legitimacy and social networks on active gun offenders. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 102 (2): 397–440.Google Scholar
  39. Pringle, P. 1955. Hue and cry: The birth of the British police. London: Museum Press.Google Scholar
  40. Reisig, M.D., J. Tankebe, and G. Meško. 2014. Compliance with the law in Slovenia: The role of procedural justice and police legitimacy. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 20 (2): 259–276.Google Scholar
  41. Rigakos, G. 2002. The new parapolice: Risk markets and commodified social control. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  42. Sarre, R., and T. Prenzler. 2011. Private security and public interest: Exploring private security trends and directions for reform in the new era of plural policing. Final Report. Australian Research Council.Google Scholar
  43. Shearing, C., and J. Wood. 2003. Nodal governance, democracy, and the new ‘denizens’. Journal of Law and Society 30 (3): 400–419.Google Scholar
  44. Spitzer, S., and A. Scull. 1977. Privatization and capitalist development: The case of the private police. Social Problems 25 (1): 18–29.Google Scholar
  45. Sunshine, J., and T.R. Tyler. 2003. The role of procedural justice and legitimacy in shaping public support for policing. Law and Society Review 37 (3): 513–548.Google Scholar
  46. Tankebe, J. 2013. Viewing things differently: The dimensions of public perceptions of police legitimacy. Criminology 51 (1): 103–135.Google Scholar
  47. Tankebe, J. 2018. In their own eyes: an empirical examination of police self-legitimacy. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice. Online First.Google Scholar
  48. Tyler, T.R. 1990. Why people obey the law. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Tyler, T.R. 2003. Trust within organisations. Personnel Review 32 (5): 556–568.Google Scholar
  50. Tyler, T.R. 2004. Enhancing police legitimacy. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 593 (1): 84–99.Google Scholar
  51. Tyler, T.R., and S.L. Blader. 2000. Cooperation in groups: Procedural justice, social identity, and behavioral engagement. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  52. Tyler, T.R., and J. Fagan. 2008. Legitimacy and cooperation: Why do people help the police fight crime in their communities. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 6: 231–275.Google Scholar
  53. Tyler, T.R., and Y. Huo. 2002. Trust in the law: Encouraging public cooperation with the police and courts. New York: Russell-Sage.Google Scholar
  54. Tyler, T.R., and J. Jackson. 2014. Popular legitimacy and the exercise of legal authority: Motivating compliance, cooperation, and engagement. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 20 (1): 78–95.Google Scholar
  55. Van Steden, R., and R. Sarre. 2007. The growth of privatized policing: Some cross-national data and comparisons. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 31 (1): 51–71.Google Scholar
  56. Van Steden, R., Z. Van Der Wal, and K. Lasthuizen. 2015. Overlapping values, mutual prejudices: Empirical research into the ethos of police officers and private security guards. Administration and Society 47 (3): 220–243.Google Scholar
  57. Wakefield, A. 2003. Selling security: The private policing of public space. Cullompton: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  58. Wolfe, S.E., J. Nix, R. Kaminski, and J. Rojek. 2016. Is the effect of procedural justice on police legitimacy invariant? Testing the generality of procedural justice and competing antecedents of legitimacy. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 32 (2): 253–282.Google Scholar
  59. Wood, J. 2004. Cultural change in the governance of security. Policing and Society 14 (1): 31–48.Google Scholar
  60. Zedner, L. 2006. Policing before and after the police: The historical antecedents of contemporary crime control. British Journal of Criminology 46 (1): 78–96.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeState University of New York at OswegoOswegoUSA
  2. 2.School of Criminal JusticeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Security ManagementKyonggi UniversitySuwon-SiSouth Korea

Personalised recommendations