The Spatial Dimension of Police Legitimacy: An Exploration of Two Pacific Island States

Tyler Cawthray*, Melissa Bull

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The police legitimacy literature is grounded predominantly in studies from the Global North. In these contexts, technology and economic resources allow policing institutions to exercise significant reach in ways that mitigate the challenges to service delivery posed by distance and geography while the bureaucratic state relationally distances these same institutions from the public. This scholarship tends to take these governmental ‘fixes’ as given. In Global South contexts, these fixes are less reliable. The complexities of policing in dispersed states—rural, remote, and island—are frequently mentioned within scholarship. However, the question of how spatial relations impact police legitimacy and services largely remains a passing concern. In this paper, we argue that in the Global South, spatial relations are important elements contributing to police legitimacy. This argument is made by reframing the rural and remote policing literature to explore how spatial archipelagic features influence how policing by the state occurs. This work is used as our analytical scaffold in two case studies of the Solomon Islands and Tonga that illustrate how space influences local views of police. We argue that space is a key contextual characteristic that needs to be considered within future police legitimacy research and theorisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-478
Number of pages20
JournalAsian Journal of Criminology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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