An effective police complaints system is important in securing and maintaining police legitimacy. There is, however, a lack of clarity regarding the nature of the relationship between the two. What does it mean for the police complaints system to be effective and how does it contribute to the legitimacy of the police? Further, what does the way in which the complaints system operates reveal about how police legitimacy is conceived? This article argues that police legitimacy can be analysed by reference to two ideal types, organisational and constitutional legitimacy. In developing these ideas, it contends that reconceptualising the police complaints system as a key site where they become contested will enhance normative debate in this area. In addition, conceiving of the police complaints system in this broader sense also serves to highlight the importance of its function in providing the data that will make such debate meaningful.
- Police complaints