The implications of injustice: An examination of vicarious police experiences, perceptions of police bias, and Muslims’ willingness to comply with police

Dr Harley Williamson1, Prof Kristina Murphy1, Dr Natasha S. Madon1

1Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, Australia

Responses to national security threats have seen Muslims disproportionately scrutinised by police. Such scrutiny may create the perception among Muslims that they are more likely to be targeted compared to other groups. Group-based relative deprivation theory denotes the feeling that one’s group is unfairly disenfranchised in comparison to relevant outgroups. Scholars theorize that if people feel that their group is deprived relative to other groups, they may be more likely to assess a police-citizen interaction with a member of their group as unjust and will be less willing to engage or comply with police as a result. Yet, limited studies exist that empirically test this proposition. This study draws on experimental vignette data from 503 Muslim participants to examine the effect of a hypothetical police-citizen interaction on Muslims’ perceptions of police bias and their willingness to comply with police. It also examines how feelings of relative deprivation condition these relationships. Findings show that the demeanour of the police officer in the hypothetical vignette, as well as feelings of relative deprivation, are important for explaining Muslims’ perceptions of police bias and their willingness to comply with police. Implications for the utility of relative deprivation theory in explaining public attitudes towards police, particularly against the backdrop of the renewed focus on understanding and addressing police bias, are discussed.


Harley Williamson is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Griffith Criminology Institute at Griffith University. Her doctoral thesis examined social psychological explanations of support for terrorism. Her research interests focus on counter-terrorism, social identity processes, minority groups, identity threats and policing.


Aug 26 2021


8:00 am - 6:00 pm