Trust and Confidence in the Police: A Conceptual Review

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DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.1684508
Cite this publication
Abstract
In Britain, public confidence in policing has become a short-hand for trust, legitimacy and consent. As such, the phrase tends to wrap up a set of inter-connected yet empirically and conceptually distinct notions. Yet it is important to unpack these distinct, albeit connected, ideas. At the very least we should differentiate between trust and confidence on the one hand, and legitimacy, compliance, cooperation and consent on the other hand. In this article we: (a) introduce the concept of trust and confidence in the police; (b) document historical trends in trust and confidence; and (c) outline the factors thought to influence public confidence. We aim throughout to highlight key ideas, studies and debates.
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1684508
1
Trust and confidence in the police: A conceptual review
Ben Bradford
1
, Methodology Institute, LSE
Jonathan Jackson, Methodology Institute and Mannheim Centre for Criminology, LSE
To appear as a Wiki article commissioned by the National Policing Improvement Agency
2
In this article we: (a) introduce the concept of trust and confidence in the police; (b) document
historical trends in trust and confidence; and (c) outline the factors thought to influence public
confidence. We aim throughout to highlight key ideas, studies and debates.
(a) What is trust and confidence in the police?
In Britain, public confidence in policing has become a short-hand for trust, legitimacy and consent. As
such, the phrase tends to wrap up a set of inter-connected yet empirically and conceptually distinct
notions. Yet it is important to unpack these distinct, albeit connected, ideas. At the very least we
should differentiate between trust and confidence on the one hand, and legitimacy, compliance,
cooperation and consent on the other hand.
On trust and confidence, there are two possible approaches to developing basic conceptual
definitions. The first treats trust and confidence as separate ‘things.’ Here, trust might capture the
interpersonal relationship between citizens and individual police officers. By contrast, confidence
might be more of a set of attitudes towards the police as an institution. As Roberts & Hough (2005:
30-31) argue: ‘It is [useful] to distinguish between someone’s expectation that they personally will
receive effective and fair treatment from the system and their belief that overall the system is effective
and fair.’ According to this perspective, trust is something you do (it relates to personal actions and
expectations at the interpersonal level) while confidence is something you have (it is a kind of ‘job-
rating’ of the police as a social institution).
The second approach relegates confidence to the bench, focusing instead on interpersonal and
institutional trust. Preferring this second approach, we would suggest that trust in the police has three
dimensions: trust that the system and individual officers will be effective, will be fair, and will display
values that are aligned with one’s own or one’s community. Institutional trust comprises relatively
stable attitudes toward the police as an instiution. Encounter-based interpersonal trust is a more active
process involving decisions to trust, or invest in, individuals at the point of encounter with individual
police officers.
What is trust?
Sociological work tends to portray trust as pervasive. Trust is inherent in and formative of many
social situations, including face-to-face encounters and the relationships between individuals and
organisations, institutions, and the state. Some theorists emphasise that trust reduces the complexity of
the world by ‘bracketing out’ many possible future events (Luhmann 1979; Giddens 1991). As such,
trust frees us up to act as if it is certain that possible future events are not going to occur; it becomes
necessary in situations of uncertainty and risk, particularly uncertainty regarding the motives,
intentions and future actions of others on who we depend. Inherent in these ideas is that trust involves,
to some extent, placing oneself at the mercy of others.
Trust is thus deeply embedded in our social relationships (Tilly 2005). At its root it involves
tacit (or explicit) expectations that others will behave in predictable ways (thus enabling the
bracketing out of many things they could do). A key element of trust is therefore the expectations that
1
Dr Ben Bradford, Methodology Institute, LSE, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom, Tel:
0044 207 955 7652, Email: b.bradford@lse.ac.uk
2
This is an entry to the National Policing Improvement Agency policing ‘Wiki’, which is both a wider online
knowledge management resource and a repository of information about past, present and future issues that have
an impact on the police service.
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1684508
2
actors within relationships have of each other (Barber 1983), ranging from the general, that the
behaviour of the other will serve to maintain and replicate the assumed natural and moral social order;
to the specific, that the other will be technically competent in the roles assigned to them within the
relationship and within the broader system it is part of, and that they will carry out their fiduciary
obligations (that is place the interests of ourselves above their own). Trust is here less an orientation
of the individual (although it is still also that) and more a product of a socially embedded relationship.
This relational aspect of trust implies a certain (social) connection between trustor and trustee.
The trustor must be able to imagine that the trustee can apprehend what their interests actually are,
and furthermore that they share an understanding of the general order under which they are operating.
The concept of motive-based trust as developed by Tyler and colleagues (Lind and Tyler 1988; Tyler
1990; Tyler and Huo 2002) addresses these ideas, where trust stems less from perceptions of
predictability and perceived willingness or ability to keep promises – as Luhmann and Giddens might
stress and more from estimates of character and affect, perceptions that the trustee has the best
interests of the trustor at heart. Motive-based trust is therefore clearly linked to fiduciary trust. It is
primarily social rather than instrumental in character, premised on the idea that the parties involved
have shared social bonds which make it possible for the one to imagine, apprehend and influence the
interests of the other.
If trust creates a world that is stable and coherent, allows us to get on with our lives, and is
embedded in our relationships with others, with institutions and with social structures, what does this
mean for trust in justice? We suggest that trust ranges from our expectations about others (both
intimates and strangers) to our expectations about social and political institutions and processes. It
follows that it is important to differentiate between ‘institutional trust’ and ‘encounter-based
interpersonal trust.’
Institutional trust
Institutional trust can be thought of as a ‘system-level’ public attitude – something that is close to ‘job
rating’ measures for the police found in the British Crime Survey and elsewhere. Sitting above actual
encounters and specific moments of cooperation and compliance, institutional trust is the implicit or
explicit belief that the police (as an institution) behaves effectively, fairly, and that it represents the
interests and expresses the values of the community – whether locally or nationally.
Institutional trust is likely to reflect orientations towards organisations that are fairly stable.
People’s views on the police, for example, are not in a state of constant review. Nevertheless,
institutional trust is subject to revision through experience, whether this is direct, vicarious, or
mediated. If institutional trust is rooted in understandings of the role and nature of the police as
reltively abstract, distant body it can nevertheless be undermined by events or long term processes,
which might include:
single incidents, involving accidents, incompetence or malpractice;
perceived changes in levels of police visibility (which in England and Wales always
translates into perceived declines in police visibility);
perceived declines in availability and readiness to intervene; and
increasingly widespread ideas that police do not treat everyone the same.
In short, we propose that institutional trust is rooted in public understandings of the role and
nature of the police institution, and rather abstract or high-level assessments about the behaviour of
the organisation that embodies it. On this account, changes in institutional trust are most likely to
occur because of long term processes or major events. Because it is based on and expressed by basic
social understandings and assumptions, institutional trust is relatively immune from short term change
but, like an oil tanker, once a change of direction is underway it might be difficult to halt or reverse.
Encounter-based interpersonal trust
In contrast, encounter-based interpersonal trust turns the focus toward the dynamic and socially-
situated nature of public encounters and cooperation with individual representatives of the police.
Interpersonal trust refers to the implicit or explicit belief of individuals that one’s own encounters with
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officers will proceed predictably and according to their assumed role and function. Immediately, such
trust implies a certain reciprocity or expectation of action on behalf of the actor as well as the police.
For example, to the extent to which we trust in these terms, if we witnessed a crime we would act
appropriately (call 999, identify protagonists, give evidence in court) because we believe the relevant
authority too would act appropriately; equally, if we were stopped by the police we would expect
officers to be, and would act as if they were, effective and fair (and we would act accordingly).
It is important to stress that encounter-based interpersonal trust in justice rests on the socially
embedded nature of interaction and cooperation. This kind of trust is emergent in active and
individual interactions (or negotiations) with representatives of the criminal justice system. It is rooted
in and tested by individual experiences and encounters, and in concrete or everyday assessments of
the police organisation. Encounter-based trust is immediate, changeable, and arguably more
capricious than institutional trust. A single negative experience might severely damage trust in the
fairness of the police in terms of possible future interactions, even though there may be much less
impact on aspects of institutional trust – that the police will be there to deal with crime when it occurs,
for example.
However this type of trust cannot only be emergent in face to face encounters. The majority of
people (not, of course, all) enter into encounters with police officers with what might be termed a pre-
expectation of trust. They will act, in the first instance, as if they had an already established trust
relationship with the agent involved. This initial trust orientation, what Mollering (2006) has called in
a different context a ‘leap of faith’ (c.f. Smith 2007), will then be tested against empirical experience
during the encounter. This initial orientation will likely be informed by the institutional trust discussed
above as well as cultural orientations toward legal authorities, the government, state and so on.
Components of trust in justice: fairness, effectiveness and value alignment
Recent conceptual and empirical work in the UK has begun to draw on the US literature on procedural
justice (Sunshine and Tyler 2003a; Tyler 1990; Tyler and Huo 2002, Reisig et al. 2007), as well as
earlier studies conducted in the UK (FitzGerald et al. 2002). Such work consistently finds that public
opinions of the police are multi-faceted, containing distinct, even potentially contradictory strands of
thought. As Barber (1983) and others might expect, the extent to which people trust the police
implicates judgements about effectiveness (technical competence), engagement with and commitment
to community values (placing the trustors interests first, principally by understanding the needs of the
community and being an accessible and visible source of moral authority), and police fairness when
dealing with people (compliance with basic underlying ideas about the rule of law). These judgements
have been found to be empirically separable, albeit that they in some sense ‘sum together’ with other
ideas to produce an overall attitude or orientation (Bradford, Jackson and Stanko 2009; Bradford and
Jackson 2009). We should note that this work consistently finds that ideas about value alignment and
fairness (which, indeed, often seem to constitute one underlying construct) are privileged over
concerns about effectiveness, although these latter are of course not unimportant.
This stress on fairness and engagement over effectiveness stands in contrast to ‘traditional’
police performance management precepts, which have held crime, arrest and conviction rates, as well
as more service-related concerns such as response times, to be the core measures of police
performance. Clearly, such factors as rates of conviction and the police’s ability to return stolen
property are, and should be, important in the formation of both institutional and encounter-based
interpersonal trust. But all current evidence suggests that (perhaps most strongly at the encounter-
based level) engagement and fairness are more important. Furthermore, it is apparent that concerns
about the level of crime, even fear of crime itself, have only a small association with opinions of the
police (Jackson et al. 2009), although this could simply mean that crime is not seen as the ‘fault’ of
the police, and that police effectiveness remains important but is assessed in other ways.
We should not assume that value alignment and fairness relate primarily to encounter-based
trust, while effectiveness relates to institutional trust. It is likely that effects instead ‘cross’ both pairs
of phenomena. Perhaps the most important example of this is the long term decline in institutional
trust in the British police since the 1950s. This seems to have been caused in part by revelations about
police corruption, racism and maltreatment of suspects, things far removed from the personal
experience of most Britons, but which have had significant effects on the trust between police and
4
policed (Reiner 2000). Fairness isn’t only about personal treatment judgements about the general
honesty and probity of criminal justice agents will also have important effects.
So far we have discussed trust primarily in terms of public perceptions about the fairness and
effectiveness of the police. But as already noted trust may also involve some kind of value alignment,
where the police or the courts are seen to understand and represent the needs of our community
having ‘our interests at heart’ (Jackson & Sunshine, 2007). Value alignment and, to use a social-
psychological term, shared group membership, have been found to be central in trust relationships
(Tyler 1990; Tyler and Huo 2002; Sunshine & Tyler, 2003b) and have also been suggested as core
components of the legitimacy of institutions such as, perhaps, the police and the courts (Beetham
1991 and see below).
Earle and Cvetkovitch (1995) claim that social trust is based on salient value similarity. This
is a ‘groundless’ trust, needing no justification. This account is based on the premise that individuals
actually require rather a lot of information about actors and institutions in order to decide whether or
not to grant trust. So while the function of such trust may be a reduction of cognitive complexity, the
basis on which it would be granted would itself require considerable cognitive effort. Rather than
deducing trustworthiness from direct evidence, people infer it from ‘value-bearing narratives’. These
could be information shortcuts, available images, schema and the like. People, so the perspective
goes, trust institutions that tell stories expressing salient values that are similar to their own. Salient
values consist of ‘the individual’s sense of the important goals (ends) and/or processes (means) that
should be followed in a particular situation’ (Siegrist, Cvetkovich, and Roth, 2000: 355). Trust is
conferred not on the basis of a detailed appraisal of the likely competence and fiduciary responsibility
of the actor but on the perception of shared salient values – the evaluation of narratives regarding the
roles, intentions, goals and behaviours of the police force. In the context of England and Wales these
ideas resonate strongly with more sociologically-based accounts that have drawn on Bourdieu’s
concept of the habitus and similar ideas to explain the (still?) dominant set of orientations toward the
police which positions them, for example, as representatives of both nation or state and dominant
social values and mores (Girling, Loader and Sparks 2000; Loader and Mulcahy 2003; Reiner 2000;
Jackson & Bradford, in press).
(b) Levels of trust and confidence in the police, current and historical
There is considerable variation in levels of confidence in the different branches of the British Criminal
Justice System, but the police habitually come top, being the objects of considerably higher levels of
confidence (Roberts and Hough 2005) or ratings of performance (Fitzgerald et al. 2002; Jansson et al.
2007) than other agencies.
Yet, despite the comparatively high levels of confidence in the police compared with other
CJS agencies, the police fare less well compared with other public services. Fitzgerald et al. (2002)
report that while just 18 per cent of Londoners in 2000 through the police (local or national) did a
very good job, 37 per cent gave this opinion of doctors, 39 per cent for teachers, 64 per cent for nurses
and 73 per cent for firemen. In comparison, 20 per cent rated social workers as very good, with just 11
per cent giving judges this score. Indeed, it is in part the relatively poor performance of the police in
this regard which continues to trigger concern around public feelings toward the police and the CJS
more widely.
What then are the broad trends in trust and confidence in the police in the UK? How have
things changed and developed over time? Viewing public trust and confidence in the police through a
historical lens immediately emphasises one of the two major reasons why this topic is currently such
an important issue in government and policing policy.
3
On all the available evidence it seems that
trust and confidence appears to have been declining since the 1960s, and has certainly done so since
the 1980s (Hough 2007b). However, conflicting understandings of this phenomenon have emerged.
Reiner (2000) paints a picture of long term decline from an apogee in the 1950s to the current
situation where trust in the police is at best fractured, is in many cases contingent, and which in some
social groups has collapsed entirely. The trend overall has been characterised by some as representing
a continued, and serious, decline in the standing and indeed legitimacy of the police. Reiner
catalogues convincingly some of the reasons for this decline – including growing antagonism between
3
The second being the ‘reassurance gap’ (see below).
5
the police and marginal and excluded groups, particularly the young and ethnic minorities, increasing
politicisation of the police, growing pluralism in the delivery of policing, and processes of social and
economic change such as the ‘de-incorporation’ of elements of the working class and the advent of
neo-liberal economics.
This view has been questioned, however. Loader and Mulcahy (2003) note that although
survey evidence does suggest a decline in trust and confidence, this should not be considered
catastrophic. Considerable reservoirs of support remain, for example, among the non-metropolitan
White middle class. Such criticisms of the idea that support for the police has ‘haemorrhaged’ are
based in part on interpretations of the survey question involved. In particular, Loader and Mulcahy
(2003) note that descriptions of decline are largely based on BCS responses which give a ‘very good’
rating to the police – if ‘fairly good’ ratings are included support has actually been relatively constant
since the early 1980s. While Hough (2007b) is probably correct in stating that some fairly good’
ratings are functionally equivalent to ‘don’t know’, implying that more attention should be given to
the definite indications of support given by ‘very good’ responses, this second strand of thinking
provides a useful corrective to ideas that the British police are actually unpopular.
Early assessments of public opinions about the police certainly suggested extremely high
levels of support. The 1962 Royal Commission on the Police reported findings from a random sample
survey assessing public views of the police and noted that:
“No less than 83 per cent of those interviewed professed great respect for the police, 16
per cent said they had mixed feelings, and only 1 per cent said they had little or no
respect” (Royal Commission on the Police 1962: 103).
A decade later Belson (1975) reported findings from a survey of Londoners which found that 73 per
cent of adults had ‘a lot’ of respect for the police, 25 per cent had ‘some’ respect and just 2 per cent
had ‘not much’ respect. Similarly, 61 per cent said they were ‘very satisfied’ with the police, with a
further 35 per cent ‘fairly’ satisfied. Only 4 per cent were dissatisfied in some way (ibid: 7).
Despite the generally extremely positive picture outlined in both these early studies
differences between younger and older people were mentioned as being an area of note or concern.
The Royal Commission noted “a measure of antipathy towards the police” (Royal Commission on the
Police 1962: 103-4) among the youngest respondents aged 18-25. Belson (1975: 7) more concretely,
reported that only 44 per cent of young people (aged 12-20) had ‘a lot’ of respect for the police
(compared with the figure of 73 per cent for all adults noted above). These early reports therefore
contain hints of a divergence in the views of the youngest age groups, something which proved to be a
theme in the later British Crime Survey reports.
Some more qualitative work further cautions against painting too rosy a picture of public
opinion in the immediate post-war years. Based on oral history accounts of ex-officers who served
from the 1920s through to the 1960s Weinberger (1995) presents a picture of a well respected and
generally well liked police force operating within a situation which was not however free from
tension. For example the policing of every-day public order caused friction between police and those
who relied on street-life, both legal and semi-legal, for their living; traffic policing was also
mentioned as a site of dissension and difficulties. Most tellingly, perhaps, in a passage recalling
William’s (1973) account of a perennial nostalgia for a golden age just passed, Weinberger notes that:
Disquiet over police behaviour in the 1920s, especially in the Metropolis
(culminated) in the 1929 Royal Commission on the police. These inquiries revealed a
degree of illegal behaviour that les the Home Secretary to admit that the police had lost
public trust and needed to regain the ‘full support and sympathy – as they used to have
20 or even 10 years ago and the affection of the public as a whole’” (Weinberger,
1995: 167)
Overall, the story which emerges is one in which, within a paradigm of what by modern
standards was a very popular police force, public disquiet and growing distrust after the war years
through to the 1960s was specifically related to (a) growing concerns about police scandals,
corruption and abuse of power, (b) growing public awareness of both its own rights and of the fact
6
that a police officers word was not necessarily law and (c) these trends inculcating a growing fear of,
and declining trust in, the police.
These trends reached a crises point in the early 1980s, marked among other things by urban
riots in London, Bristol and Liverpool which were in many ways directed at the police, and the use, at
the behest of the then Conservative government, of heavy-handed policing tactics against striking
miners and other workers. It was in this atmosphere that the first Policing for London study was
carried out (Smith 1983; Smith and Gray 1985). Based on an extensive programme of research this
study set out to create the conditions for ‘reasoned public debate’ about the role of policing in a
modern Britain. Survey evidence reported from the study found high levels of public disquiet about
the honesty and integrity of the police (25 per cent through that the police ‘often’ used threats during
question, for example), that people were sometimes stopped without good reason (over two thirds of
‘West Indian’ respondents felt this way), and, among ethnic minority respondents in particular, that
some groups in society are treated unfairly by the police. Overall, the report found that:
“There need to be mechanisms that try to achieve a measure of harmony between how
the police behave … and how people wish and expect them to … Whatever the
mechanism is, it will tend to be seen within the police force as a means of obtaining
public support for the policies and practices they believe are right; and outside the
police force as a means of ensuring that policing policy is adapted to meet public
expectations.” (Smith and Gray 1985: 15-16)
Subsequent to the earlier studies already outlined the first British Crime Survey (BCS) was
conducted in 1982, with further waves following with increasing regularity after then. A key finding
presented by successive waves of the BCS was indeed an apparent decline in confidence in the local
police over time (Jackson et al. 2009; Bradford 2009; Jansson 2008). However, findings from the
BCS suggest that in the debate between Reiner, Hough and Loader and Mulcahy outline above a
middle way can perhaps be charted. The question referring to the local police changed format in
2003/04, allowing comparison of earlier and later periods. The implications of the change are shown
clearly in Figure 1, which presents the overall picture and underlines the importance of the debate
over the meaning of ‘very’ and ‘fairly’ good. If ‘fairly good’ really does mean ‘don’t know’, as
Hough suggests, then support for the police was indeed at an all time low in the early 2000s.
However, if it can be taken at face value then support was very much higher. In fact the change to the
question format in 2003/04, the results of which are also shown, suggests that Hough was perhaps half
correct. For example, while only 7 per cent of people rated their local police as ‘excellent’ in 2005/06,
a further 44 per cent gave an unequivocal ‘good’ response. For all that levels of confidence in the
police are lower than in the past at the very least Figure 1 suggests a bedrock of support which has
remained constant over recent years, and may even have increased slightly.
Figure 1
7
Ratings of the local police, 1984 to 2005/06
England and Wales
Notes: Respons es to question ' How good a job are the police i n this area doing'. Response categories changed in 2003/04, which is shown on both old and new basis
here to allow comparison.
Data are produced from dataset which combines all sweeps of the BCS from 1984 to 2005/06 and may therefore differ slightly from those presented elsewhere.
Data for 2001/02 i nclude entire calender year of 2001.
Source: British Crime Survey 1984 to 2005/06
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
1984 1988 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2001/02 2002/03 2003/04
Very good Fairly good Fairly poor Very poor
2003/04 2004/05 2005/06
Excellent Good Fair Poor Very poor
(c) Sources of trust and confidence in policing
Contact and experience (including vicarious experience and victimization)
A significant proportion of people each year have come into contact with the police around 40 per
cent according to recent BCS survey waves (Allen, Edmonds et al. 2006). Despite the undoubted
importance of media and other social representations in informing and even moulding opinions about
the police (Mawby 2002; Leishman and Mason 2003), personal contact seems likely to remain a key
factor in many people’s experiences. While not the only crucible in which ideas about institutions like
the police are formed, moments of personal contact are likely to be vital in people’s experiences.
Media representations and vicarious experience the tales told and stories exchanged within family
and friendship groups – may be of equal importance in the long run, but few will have the immediacy
and, arguably, potential impact of face to face encounters, the more so because contacts will often
occur at times of stress, difficulty and drama.
The relationship between personal experience and public opinion is different for the police
than for many other public services. Whereas in most cases personal experience boosts opinions – for
example among National Health Service patients (MORI 2007) – for the police this situation is
reversed, and opinions are routinely found to be lower among those who have had recent contact than
among those who have not (Fitzgerald et al., 2002; Allen et al., 2006; Skogan 2006).
This unusual relationship seems to hold across most situations and for most social groups.
However much UK work on police-public interactions has concentrated on particular population
groups, the most important being ethnic minorities (Keith 1993; Bowling and Philips 2002), other
excluded or marginal groups (Loader 1996; Choongh 1997) and of course those calling the police for
help (Newburn and Merry 1990; Waddington 1993; Ames and Hard 2003). This emphasis has in part
been prompted by the long history of difficult relations between police and some social groups,
especially certain ethnic minority communities (Gilroy 1987; Hall 1993 (1978)). Other studies have
looked in-depth at one type of contact, most notably stop and search (MVA and Miller 2000;
Waddington, Stenson et al. 2004; Shiner 2006; Bowling and Philips 2007).
Despite the apparent negative association between contact and confidence current policies
intended to halt the decline in trust and confidence, from ‘reassurance policing’ and application of the
‘signal crimes’ approach (Innes 2004a) to specific activities on the ground conducted by
neighbourhood policing teams, are predicated on the idea that increasing the number and quality of
police-citizen contacts will arrest and reverse the fall in trust and confidence. Police officers have an
ethical and a legal duty to treat those whom they come into contact with fairly and decently, but these
ideas and policies go much further. They suggest that improving the ways officers deal with people,
8
and increasing police visibility and responsiveness, can have concrete effects in enhancing police-
community relations.
However there is considerable debate about the extent to which direct contact can improve
trust and confidence. While there is empirical evidence from some quarters that contact which is
found to be satisfactory can have an uplifting effect on trust and confidence (Tyler and Fagan 2006;
Bradford et al., 2009), the magnitude of such effects is usually much smaller than any negative
consequences from unsatisfactory contacts. This has lead some to talk of an ‘asymmetry’ in impacts
of contact on confidence (Skogan 2006), with the implication that schemes designed to improve the
standing of police by improving the quality of contacts are destined to failure. This would be bad
news indeed for a UK policing agenda which is firmly fixed on increasing the presence, visibility and
activity of police in local areas, and which explicitly links these to improvements in both trust and
confidence and feelings of reassurance (OPSR 2003; Dalgliesh and Myhill 2004; Tuffin, Morris et al.
2006; Quinton and Morris 2008).
Despite any evidence that personal contact with the police is more likely to harm public
opinion than enhance it, the focus on reassurance and neighbourhood policing might be seen primarily
as a response to what the public say, time and again, they want: more visible and accessible police and
above all ‘bobbies on the beat’ (Fitzgerald et al. 2002; Roberts and Hough 2005). But it is also a
recognition of, and attempt to circumvent, the ‘reassurance gap’ (Duffy, Wake et al. 2008), the much
discussed phenomena that confidence in the police appears to have fallen, or at least bottomed out, at
a time when crime rates (as measured by the BCS) have been falling in a manner unprecedented since
the post-war crime boom began (Jansson 2008).
Apparent successes in reducing crime have not resulted in improvements in opinion:
reassurance policing is supposed to convince the public that they are indeed safer from crime, and that
the police are in some way responsible for this. However detailed analyses of the correlates of
confidence in the police generally find that victimisation (net of actual contact) and fear of crime (in
as much as this represents lay assessments of the extent of the crime problem), while significantly
related to trust and confidence, have only a relatively small impact, and that other factors are much
more important - the experience of non-criminal disorder, for example. These ideas are explored in
more depth below.
Public concerns about crime and neighbourhood breakdown
Roberts and Hough (2005) report that, when asked to rate the importance of 20 possible functions of
the criminal justice system some 72 per cent of respondents to a MORI poll conducted in 2003 rated
treating all people fairly as being ‘absolutely essential’, making this the single most important
function for respondents. This is essentially a normative function it relates to the principles which
guide the system (ibid: 9). However the next six most important functions, covering public safety,
bringing offenders to justice, and reducing crime – were all utilitarian or instrumental in nature,
suggesting that public beliefs about the function of the criminal justice system are centred around the
idea that it is there to ‘fight’, or otherwise deal with, crime. In a similar manner, the ethos, image and
mythology of the police is built around an institution comprised of thief-takers and crime-stoppers
(Reiner 2000). As such we would expect public confidence in the criminal justice system to be based
at the very least in part on assessments about the job it is doing in fighting crime and, through this,
reducing fear of crime and the chances of victimisation.
But is it actually the case that when forming overall opinions about the criminal justice system
people think primarily, or purely, in terms of crime-rates, perceived chances of victimisation, or
fear of attack? Or do they consider a much broader range of issues, including those more
normative concerns about the behaviour of the system itself which the MORI poll suggested were
somewhat less important when it came to priorities? It is certainly true that crime increased from
the Second World War onwards (although it has been falling since the mid 1990s) and it is
tempting to see the relative low levels of confidence in the criminal justice system as reflecting this
fact. Public confidence may therefore on one account be rooted primarily in judgments about the
severity of the crime problem, in anxieties about falling victim, and in assessments of the
(in)effectiveness of the criminal justice system. When people are worried about becoming a victim
of crime, confidence suffers because people look to it for protection.
9
The emergence of the so-called ‘reassurance gap’ (Duffy, Wake et al. 2008) or ‘paradox’
(Crawford 2007), however, complicates the picture. Although crime rates have been falling in the UK
since the mid 1990s (Nicholas et al., 2007), confidence in the police and criminal justice system have
not seen commensurate improvements. Despite the fact that there have been apparent successes in
dealing with crime (although of course the extent to which any criminal justice policies actually affect
the crime rate remains open to question), the public does not seem to have rewarded this with
improved confidence ratings. This issue has become a central element of government policy, with
programmes such as the National Reassurance Policing Programme (NRPP) set up specifically to
combat fear of crime and improve confidence in the police (Tuffin et al., 2006).
Might these recent dynamics be partly explained by a public that remains unconvinced about
reductions in the threat of crime? Police officers might be tempted to view the public as holding
somewhat unrealistic beliefs about crime, driven partly by sensational mass media coverage and
political rhetoric and compounded by a low level of faith in official crime statistics. In other words,
the police are held responsible for irrational anxieties about crime and risk. There is evidence that
people have an unbalanced picture of the reality of crime. Sweep after sweep of the BCS has shown
that the majority of the population of England and Wales believe that crime in their local area has
actually increased over the past two years. Public confidence in policing may therefore suffer because
the public does not ‘feel’ any improvements in crime: a fearful population may have an exaggerated
sense of the crime problem, feeling let down by the police because their streets and homes feel unsafe.
If this explanation holds, in order to secure public confidence in their effectiveness the police might
consider educating the public about the reality of crime.
4
Publicizing success and trying to calm down
anxiety may therefore pay dividends.
There is however another account of the source of opinions about police and policing activity.
With anti-social behaviour very much on the public policy agenda, and with the notion of ‘signal
crimes’ feeding into policing strategies (Innes, 2004a, 2004b; Millie and Herrington, 2005), it may be
that public concern about incivilities may instead be key – and judgement of disorder is the one aspect
of public opinion that has echoed changing levels of public confidence in policing over the last
decade.
Why would satisfaction with the police be influenced more by such things as teenagers
hanging around the streets, or litter on the floor, or graffiti and vandalism in one’s neighbourhood, and
less by worry about falling victim of violent crime or burglary? It could be that the first set of
concerns are vital for public confidence because they comprise an expressive orientation toward
policing (and attitudes towards punishment) which is rooted in the moral significance of rule-breaking
behaviour (Tyler & Boeckmann, 1997; Jackson & Bradford, in press). This symbolic or expressive
model suggests that rule-breaking is an affront to shared values and norms. Individuals base their
opinion of the police not on whether they fear for their own safety, but on the extent to which they
believe the police are addressing the moral consequences of rule-breaking behaviour they perceive
around them on a daily basis (Girling et al., 2000). Such concerns are intimately bound up with ideas
about social cohesion, community effectiveness, and local disorder.
This expressive model proposes that the police are viewed as prototypical representatives and
authorities of the community, and individuals therefore look to the police to strengthen moral
structures. It follows that when signs of social breakdown are evident, the police will be judged to be
ineffective, regardless what is happening to crime more narrowly defined. As Lofthouse (1996: 44)
argues: ‘ . . . the police are not just the simple protectors of the community, they are constantly and
actively engaged in the construction and reconstruction of the moral and social order(emphasis
added). The more day-to-day concerns over anti-social behaviour, disorder & incivilities, signs of low
community cohesion and moral authority therefore move toward the foreground of public confidence
in policing, in part of course because these things loom larger in most people’s lives than do more
serious crimes. Low level disorder and incivilities may even promote fear of crime themselves. A
sense that communities are losing the low-level, informal social controls that used to regulate
behaviour is also key. People look on the police less as super-cops roaring past in patrol cars to a
4
Of course it is debatable whether the police have it in their power to influence fear of crime or lay beliefs about
crime.
10
bank-robbing or assault, and more as a old-fashioned representative of community values and norms –
symbols of moral authority – there to address these everyday problems (Jackson & Sunshine, 2007).
Mass media and (lack of) knowledge
Research has suggested that for most people the media, not personal experience, is the primary source
of information on the police (Mawby, 2002; c.f. Skogan, 1990; 1994; Fizgerald et al., 2002) report
findings from the Policing for London Survey which back this up: 28 per cent of people said the TV
and radio news was their main source; 16 per cent named broadsheet papers; 15 per cent tabloid
papers; and 11 per cent TV documentaries (fully 80 per cent named newspapers as one their sources,
with a similar proportion mentioning TV news and documentaries). It is also noteworthy that almost
all people (92 per cent) saw their main source as accurate (ibid: 78). The BCS reports similar findings,
with local papers, news programmes on TV and radio, and tabloids and broadsheets among the most
commonly cited sources (Allen et al., 2006: Table 2.21).The public’s judgement that its sources of
information are accurate is very much at odds with a police view which perceives a public seriously
mislead about the realities of policing by mass media reports.
Police activity in its broadest sense (corruption/scandals, reassurance activities, changing priorities,
etc.)
While the police obviously play a key role in the processes, described above, which have resulted in
challenges to and changes in trust and confidence they are not in every case the major player;
sometimes, in the case of media messages about the seriousness of the crime problem for example,
even appearing largely powerless in the face of problems which threaten public confidence. However
there is another set of such challenges which has its source much nearer to ‘home’ the activities,
actions and policies of the police itself.
This idea has most fully been explored by Robert Reiner (2000; see also Mawby 2002). The
legitimacy of the British police was not, as Reiner points out, something which was inherent in the
institution or a social given from the moment the public police were initiated in London in 1829.
From the outset, the role and activities of the Metropolitan police were severely contested, not only
among the working class, the primary objects of police attention, but also among the middle and
upper classes. However deliberate police policy, as well as wider social change, in particular the
incorporation of the working class, meant that by the early 1950s the English police enjoyed a
legitimacy commonly thought of as of quite unparalleled in extent: “[B]y the 1950s ‘policing by
consent’ had been achieved in Britain to the maximal degree it is ever attainable” (ibid: 49).
Reiner traces convincingly the major components of the police legitimation project:
bureaucratic organisation; the rule of law; a strategy of minimal force; non-partisanship;
accountability; the service role; preventive policing; and police effectiveness. Many of these elements,
of course, were always more important at an ideological, even mythical, level than that of everyday
lived reality – the example, the purported police role as the crime fighting organisation was probably
always more a matter of presentation than any actual ability to seriously affect crime rates beyond
certain very limited circumstances. But each was an important pillar underpinning the extremely high
level of trust and confidence in the 1950s and each, in its different way, was undermined in
subsequent decades at least in part by the activities of the police itself. This is not the place to repeat
Reiner’s argument, but a summary of his key points will suffice in order to illustrate the general point.
Bureaucratic organisation. A key element in the legitimation project was an accent on training and
discipline or, perhaps more importantly, standardisation of these. The dominant image was of a
uniform, and uniformed, force or service which was able to treat all those with whom it came into
contact with equal skill and dedication. This is plainly an impossible remit to fulfil – different levels
of ability, aptitude and commitment among officers means that it will always be the case that different
people (and different groups of people) will receive different levels of service, something which will
forcefully bought home to the public during some of their personal contacts with the police.
The rule of law. This was a major concern of the founders of the Metropolitan police, who were
keenly aware of the need for the fledgling police to be seen to be governed by the same rules as those
they policed. However, as is commonly remarked by students of the police, it is actually impossible
11
for the police, on a day to day basis, to follow the rule of law to the letter, for example, by making an
arrest for every infringement they witness (reference). The very concept of police discretion mitigates
against a full (and therefore in many senses fair) application of the rule of law, since it presupposes
that different circumstances merit different responses.
Accountability. As well as their legal accountability, the police were “purported to be accountable
through an almost mythical process of identification with the British people … they were supposed to
be in tune with the popular will because of their social representativeness and lack of special powers”
(ibid: 55). While the idea that the police were accountable to the public via some mythic connection
still held negative results from encounters were accepted because they came from the police as
embodiments of the popular will (Manning, 1997). However, Reiner makes the important point that
this type of accountability-through-identification has been massively undermined by a pluralisation of
society (in terms of race, culture, gender roles and sexuality) which has left police representivity
floundering in its wake: if and when the mythic connection is lost, and the police are no longer seen as
representatives of the people, they loose an important element of their right to ‘enforce’ negative
outcomes.
Non-partisanship. In this context non-partisanship refers essentially to the political impartiality of the
police, which was fatally undermined by the actions of both James Anderton and other chief
constables and the ‘rank and file’ Police Federation from the mid 1970s onwards.
The service role. While the service role of the police continues to be (over)stated in official discourse
(Reiner, 2000: 74), academic investigation has amply demonstrated that at the operational level this
type of work has always been disparaged by officers ‘on the ground’ (Foster 2003), who have
overwhelmingly emphasised enforcement, action and ‘thief-taking’ roles. Encounters between police
and public will be the chief arena in which this contradiction is played out, as members of the public,
perhaps expecting sympathy, understanding and support, may often be confronted by action-oriented
officers keen to get the boring jobs of statement writing or witness processing over in order to answer
the next call from dispatch.
Preventative policing. Preventative policing was thought of by the founders of the public police in
terms of a physical presence on the street – ‘scarecrow policing’ (Reiner, 2000: 76) and the image
the uniformed bobby is something which chimes with the public to this day, being overwhelmingly
the single thing which people believe will most improve the police service (Roberts and Hough, 2005:
55). This was always an issue more of image than reality, however, and Reiner notes that throughout
the history of the police resources have always been more readily focused on specialist departments
rather then the uniformed patrol (see also Loveday 1997), although in recent years the emphasis on
community policing, for example the Met’s safer neighbourhoods initiative, suggests that this may no
longer strictly be the case. Furthermore, the effectiveness of street patrols in preventing crime is,
whatever the public may like to think, doubtful to say the least.
Police effectiveness. That crime rates (whatever the problems 'counting crime' - Coleman and
Moynihan 1996) increased dramatically from the 1950s, and that public concern about crime, partly
although perhaps not entirely in response to this (Newburn, 2007) also massively deepened over the
same period need hardly be rehearsed here (see Hope and Sparks, 2006). The extent to which the
police are held to blame for this among the public is perhaps moot (Jackson et al. 2009); however,
what is most important is that in many circumstances the public will (when victimized) be confronted
with the inability of the police to solve ‘their’ crime, return their stolen goods and so on. Since less
than a third of recorded crimes are detected – 27 per cent in 2005/06 (Walker et al, 2006: 137) – it is
perhaps surprising that opinions of the police are not lower among victims that they actually appear to
be. Despite this, it remains incontrovertible that a key element of the police’s claim to legitimacy,
their role as crime fighters and thief catchers, will be compromised in a majority of the actual contacts
they have with the victims of crime.
12
However policing activities will not and do not lead inevitably lead to declines in trust and
confidence. In a review of the available evidence, Myhill (2004) found strong support from a number
of studies that strategies to enhance community engagement in policing can improve police-
community relations and perceptions of the police. For example the Home Office’s evaluation of the
National Reassurance Policing Programme (Tuffin et al., 2006) found a 15 percentage point increase
in people rating their local police as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ in the programme trial sites, compared with
3 percentage points in the control sites.
Furthermore Mawby (2002) points to the importance of an active police role with regard to
‘image work’ – “..all the activities in which police forces engage and which project meanings of
policing” (ibid: 1). These range from intentional activities such as media and public relations, to
everyday, unintentional practises which communicate images of policing which may affect public
opinions in some way. The importance of police image work can be discerned in a number of survey
sources. For example, Bradford, et al. (2009) found that people who felt more informed about police
activities had, net of other characteristics, more favourable views (although it is of course unclear as
to why they felt better informed, active practises such as leaflet drops may well have a role to play).
The broader context (declining deference, declining institutional trust, increasing diversity including
increasing diversity of expectation).
In an echo of Reiner’s list of legitimation strategies outlined above, Smith (2007) has outlined a set of
new challenges to police legitimacy. While Reiner alludes primarily to aspects of police and policing
at least nominally under the control of the service itself, Smith accentuates the challenges to police
legitimacy which have arisen from much wider social events and trends. These include:
the response to terrorism;
policing beyond the state;
new interpretations of accountability;
centralization of the police service;
increasing social diversity;
prevention, risk management, and intelligence lead policing; and
new political context.
It is striking to note that while Reiner’s list of legitimating strategies is largely concerned with
what the police do (or perhaps more correctly are thought to do or present themselves as doing) and
how they do it, Smith’s list of challenges is broader, taking in activities (the response to terrorism,
intelligence lead policing), external developments (plural policing, the increased emphasis on other
State and non-State actors taking on policing roles), internal organisation (centralization, which can
itself be best seen as a response to external developments such as the impact of the new public
managerialism on state bodies) and social changes (the social and political contexts within which
policing occurs). As such, many impacts from the factors in Smith’s list will be prior to either
personal contact with the police among members of the public or active police strategies or policies –
that is, they will operate primarily at the level of institutional trust, although they may also affect
interpersonal trust. For example, social changes such as the decline in deference (Miliband, 1975) and
the increasing diversity of society may combine to mean that the police are held to less representative,
share fewer social bonds with those they police, in part because of this, will be trusted less.
13
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    This paper examines the effect of instrumental and expressive concerns on public confidence in the police in three different residential areas in Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana’s third largest city. The study was important because of the knowledge vacuum that existed in regard to the empirical validity of the instrumental and expressive theoretical framework within the Ghanaian context. Data for the study was drawn from a baseline survey conducted in three residential areas in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis. The findings revealed that instrumental factors played a more significant role in influencing confidence in the police in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis compared to expressive factors. More importantly, instrumental factors played a more significant role in influencing confidence in the police at Anaji compared to the other two residential areas used in the study. The paper recommends that there should be more investment in police infrastructure and services to enhance police effectiveness and efficiency. Additionally, the authors also suggest that interventions aimed at improving security at the community level should be guided by periodic safety audits since this will provide a better understanding of the criminogenic problems within these residential settlements.
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    This chapter presents a case study of policing on one large metropolitan university campus in the Australian state of Victoria. Victoria police identified the university campus environment as an ideal setting to interact with students to break down barriers and fear of police. The policing program aimed to enhance the safety, security and well-being of the university community, and ultimately wider social cohesion. The study links police and the university to present empirical findings to inform best practice. The study presents insights into a new Police on Campus Program that has the potential to change the way Australians tend to think about safety and security in university environments. In this chapter, it is shown how a proactive and collaborative approach to on-campus policing can build positive student-police and wider community relationships.
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    This chapter looks at the provision of campus security across the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia. Specific sections are dedicated to each country and new contexts and associated challenges facing campus security are explored. The multi-site case study is based on interviews with campus police, security personnel and other key informers to explore the different approaches and levels of campus security. The chapter includes information about campus security responses to contemporary national and international incidents and risks. Evidence suggests that campuses in Australia may be moving towards the levels and models of security provided in the UK and the US. The provision of campus security is shown to be changing in response to increasing contemporary risks and different student populations.
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    A key challenge associated with rapid urbanization in much of the developing world (including Ghana) is the disposal of municipal solid waste. This has engendered numerous conflicts between municipal authorities and communities located near landfills. While these conflicts have attracted much media concerns in Ghana, not enough academic research has been carried out to unearth the root causes and consequences of these conflicts. More importantly, increased urbanization and concomitant growth of real estates in peri-urban areas of large Ghanaian cities such as Accra, have meant that landfills must compete with residential land use resulting in closer proximity of landfill sites to residential neighbourhoods. Thus, increasingly due to the intense competition for land the capacity of the peri-urban areas of large cities to absorb urban-generated waste is compromised. This paper attempts to bridge this knowledge gap by highlighting the issues of conflicts and governance using two peri-urban landfills in Accra as a case study. It argues that landfill-related conflicts are the result of the existing land ownership system and the consequent outcomes of poor spatial planning and management of metropolitan fringe areas. The study concludes that resolving landfill-related conflicts must start with tackling the land question which should then create a space for promoting forward planning involving the active participation of chiefs and community members. Again, studies on the acquisition, management and governance of landfills in the developed world could provide useful lessons for Ghana and other developing countries.
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    Book synopsis: Conducting research into crime and criminal justice carries unique challenges. This Handbook focuses on the application of 'methods' to address the core substantive questions that currently motivate contemporary criminological research. It maps a canon of methods that are more elaborated than in most other fields of social science, and the intellectual terrain of research problems with which criminologists are routinely confronted.
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    Book synopsis: This book offers a new insight into leadership in the public sector: It describes public leadership as a form of collective leadership in which leaders from a range of public, private and voluntary organisations share a common aim in improving the life of communities. It examines the current focus on public service reform and highlights the impact that performance targets have had on leadership. The importance of the role of the individual leader is acknowledged, but it argues that this role is not to provide the answers but to ask intelligent questions in tackling wicked issues that undermine well being. The book explores the experience of reform across the sector and sets some tough challenges for government, public institutions and their leaders. It will be of benefit to all who are interested in what the future holds for public services and prompts a different way of thinking about leadership.
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    This article examines the hypothesis that citizen's perceptions of injustice are based on normative factors (i.e., perceptions of equity and fairness) rather than instrumental factors (i.e., the outcomes received) by examining citizen's perceptions of injustice are assessed using data collected for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)-sponsored Police-Public Contact Survey, a national survey of citizens regarding their contacts with police, collected in 1999. Using multinomial logistic regression, the influences of the normative and instrumental perspectives are examined while controlling for citizen's characteristics and race-interaction terms, along with legal, situational, and other control variables. The findings support Tyler's proposition that citizens are concerned with issues of fairness in addition to the actual outcomes they receive from criminal-justice officials. The findings also show significant differences in citizens' perceptions of distributive and procedural injustice by race. The implications for policy and future research are explored.
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    This study examines why the public supports the punishment of rule breakers. It does so within the context of a recently enacted California initiative mandating life in prison for repeat felons (the "three strikes" law). Antecedents of three aspects of people's reactions to rule breakers are explored: (1) support for the three strikes initiative, (2) support for punitiveness in dealing with rule breakers, and (3) willingness to abandon procedural protections when dealing with potential rule breakers. The results of interviews with members of the public suggest that the widely held view that public punitiveness develops primarily from concerns about crime and the courts and is primarily linked to public views about risk and dangerousness is incorrect. While these factors do influence public feelings, they are not the central reasons underlying public punitiveness. Instead, the source of people's concerns lies primarily in their evaluations of social conditions, including the decline in morality and discipline within the family and increases in the diversity of society. These concerns are about issues of moral cohesion-with people feeling that the quality and extent of social bonds and social consensus has deteriorated in American society.
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    Every public service has been subject to the reforming zeal of a Conservative government committed to marketing the public sector in the name of improved efficiency. Yet it was not until the 1990s that the police were subjected to a similar experience. The police service was deemed to be an essential public order force and tool for the government as it embarked on a programme which would inevitably lead to confrontation with public sector unions in the 1980s. As Howard Davies was to argue succinctly in his Social Market Foundation pamphlet on the police: Until the end of the miners’ strike in 1985, there was perhaps a sound political reason for leaving the police undisturbed… The industrial relations confrontations of the early 1980s certainly placed a high premium on the maintenance of an unquestionably loyal, disciplined and strike free police service. Subsequently the logic of non-intervention became less clear. (Davies, 1992: 28)