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Crossing the Line of Legitimacy: The Impact of Cross-Deputization Policy on Crime Reporting

What might the effect of using law enforcement to target undocumented immigrants for deportation be on public safety and perceptions of law enforcement? This policy, known as cross-deputization, has recently gained national prominence in the United States in the form of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 legislation and has gained significant momentum through copycat laws across the country (Lacayo, 2011). Whereas proponents argue that such policies will improve public safety and respect for law enforcement (Mulhausen, 2010), the vast majority of law enforcement executives fear the opposite (Amendola, Williams, Hamilton, & Puryear, 2008). To address these competing hypotheses, we surveyed civilians about how their perceptions of law enforcement and crime-reporting behaviors might change in response to the enactment of cross-deputization policy. Results are consistent with the fears of law enforcement and a procedural justice framework (Tyler & Huo, 2002) and suggest that enacting cross-deputization policy reduces perceptions of law enforcement's legitimacy and the desire to report crimes. Findings suggest that perceptions of law enforcement's legitimacy can be harmed by a policy even when police themselves oppose that policy. We discuss implications for the expansion of political psychology to Latino-related policy domains and for public safety in an era of heated immigration rhetoric. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)

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Journal of the Social Sciences

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