Policing institutions throughout the world face a legitimacy crisis. This crisis’ immediacy necessitates the exploration of theories that provide answers regarding effective reforms. The representation theory of policing offers one such answer; it holds that accountability mechanisms are an avenue for public input that increases confidence in police and affords them democratic legitimacy. This article applies and evaluates representation theory by examining one such reform attempt: post-Troubles policing restructuring and its impact on relations between police and the militant nationalist community within West Belfast. It assesses print media coverage of accountability reforms throughout the peace negotiation period and the early years of reform implementation and ultimately affirms the association between police legitimacy and accountability; however, it also suggests that this association is more complex than a simple positive correlation. Rather, legitimacy is correlated with public debate regarding accountability that encompasses both positive and negative evaluations of policing. This indicates that the predominance of police accountability as a subject of public discourse may serve as an essential component of efforts to instill policing with democratic legitimacy. The article presents an original model of representation theory that more accurately reflects the dynamics of legitimacy-building efforts in West Belfast and proposes applications of this advancement to the contemporary, global movement advocating for police reform.