Date of Award

Spring 5-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Criminal Justice

Advisor/Committee Chair

Cynthia Najdowski

Committee Member

Stacey Zyskowski


This study investigates the relations between citizens’ perceptions of how police misconduct as a factor contributing to wrongful convictions is connected to attitudes towards police legitimacy. I hypothesized that there would be a negative correlation between the two variables such that the more individuals believe police error contributes to wrongful convictions, the less legitimate they perceive the police to be. I also examined how citizens’ race affects these perceptions and attitudes, too, and hypothesized that Black citizens are more likely than White citizens to believe police error leads to wrongful conviction and mistrust the police. To test the hypotheses data was collected through a survey of 105 White and 105 Black residents of the United States to complete an online survey via Qualtrics software. The survey included one item that measured participants’ views on the frequency with which police misconduct contributes to wrongful convictions as well as a 9-item scale that assessed how legitimate participants perceive the police to be. That data showed that there was a negative correlation between attitudes of police misconduct leading to wrongful conviction and attitudes on police legitimacy and that Black participants had higher estimates of police misconduct and lower attitudes about police legitimacy.