Published on February 19, 2014
Policing an image: How do the police gain our confidence? The British police force has long chased targets of effectiveness (Myhill and Quinton 2010). In a society where public consent legitimises the authority of the police, these targets are only justified if the public want the police to be effective (Bradford 2012). Scholars have begun to question this, raising important implications for policing policy, as it is suggested that increased confidence in the police can lead to public cooperation, reduced crime, and even lowered costs (Stanko et al 2012). Using data from the British Crime Survey, 2007-2008: Teaching dataset, this report investigates the association between police effectiveness and public confidence, contrasting it with the association between police fairness and public confidence. This report also examines how the stronger of the two initial associations above is impacted by ethnicity, as a historically troubled relationship between the police and certain ethnic groups could be improved with a greater understanding of how ethnicity influences confidence in the police. Key literature is discussed followed by a critical outline of the methods used. The findings are presented and discussed with reference to the literature, and conclusions are drawn regarding implications for government policy and further research. Aim To establish whether the public’s confidence in the police is more greatly influenced by police effectiveness in reducing crime or their perceived fairness during individual interactions, and to investigate belief in police fairness is influenced by ethnicity. Research Questions 1. Is public confidence in the police associated with police effectiveness? 2. Is public confidence in the police associated with police fairness? 3. Is there a difference in the strength of these associations? 4. Are peoples’ views of police fairness associated with their ethnicity? 120126071 1
Literature review It is becoming widely acknowledged that the public’s support legitimises police authority (Bradford 2012, Hohl et al 2010, Jackson and Sunshine 2007, Hough 2006, Reiner 2000). This issue is becoming increasingly important in the UK for several reasons. First, the UK is a democratic society, with the police accountable to the public for its services (Lai and Zaho 2010). Secondly, the public show greater compliance with police demands when they have confidence in the police (Tyler 2011, Tyler and Fagan 2008, Sunshine and Tyler 2003, Tyler and Huo 2002) and feel satisfied following specific encounters with them (Stanko et al 2012). Finally, the British public has become more reflexive and consumerist towards public services in recent years (Bradford 2010). Nicholas and Walker (2004) report a steady decline in confidence in the police since 1945. Assuming that confidence in the police reflects peoples’ concern with social order more generally, Reiner (2000) argues this decline reflects late modernity and the disenchantment and insecurity across society it causes. However confidence has risen since 2000 according to the ONS (Kershaw et al 2008, Mayhill and Beak 2008), leading Loader and Mulchy (2003) to suggest that people look to the police for security in an increasingly pluralised and risky world. However public confidence in the police is difficult to both define and measure (Stanko et al 2012), with much debate around whether the public value police effectiveness in reducing crime above their treating people with respect (Myhill and Quinton 2011, Bradford et al 2009a). US procedural justice theory argues that the fairness with which the police operate in individual encounters is of paramount importance in securing public confidence in the police force (Tyler and Fagan 2008, Tyler 2007, Tyler and Huo 2002, Lind and Tyler 1988). Rigorous empirical testing supports this theory in a US and international context (Jackson et al. 2012a, Murphy et al. 2008, Tankebe 2008). Bradford 2012 and Stanko et al 2012 suggest that this theory is becoming significant in the UK. Many UK scholars now contend that the role of the police is more symbolic than functional (Jackson and Bradford 2010, Stanko and Bradford 2009). Congruent with Loader and Mulchy’s (2003) argument, they believe that the public view the police as defenders of the moral order, not just criminal-catchers. As such, confidence in the police is based more on their ability to represent cultural values of importance to individuals. Research shows this is best achieved through treating individuals with respect and fairness during individual encounters (Jackson and Sunshine 2007). However there is surprisingly little UK-based research into the impact of demographic variables such as ethnicity on individuals’ belief in the police’s fairness (Jackson and Sunshine 2007). This is a very salient issue following the inquest into the 2011 shooting of Mark Duggan, an Afro-Caribbean teenager, by London police (Stenson and Silverstone 2014, Solomos 2011). Evidence shows that the ensuing riots were partially 120126071 2
motivated by perceptions of police discrimination against certain ethnic groups (Parmar 2014, Riots Communities and Victims Panel 2012, The Guardian and LSE 2011). The subsequent inquiry concluded that the shooting of Duggan was legal, mainly on police evidence, further calling the fairness of the police into question. Indeed police race relations have a troubled history in the UK: the Brixton riots in 1981 (Scarman 1981) and the failed police enquiry into Steven Lawrence’s murder in 1993 (Foster et al 2005, Macpherson 1999) being significant examples. Academic literature from the US demonstrates a strained relationship between ethnic minorities and the police, as there are lower levels of confidence among them than among white people (Lai and Zhao 2010, Huebner et al 2004, Garcia and Cao 2005, Brown and Benedict 2002). Surprisingly, UK-based research on this topic reveals little or no relationship between ethnicity and confidence in the police (Clancy et al 2001, Jefferson and Walker 1993, Smith 1991, Waddington and Braddock 1991). Brown and Benedict (2002) argue that this signals a change in attitudes, as previous research demonstrates a much greater difference. Some scholars attribute this in part to the police’s efforts to improve relationships with ethnic minority groups (Innes 2007, Dalgliesh and Myhill 2004, Miller et al 2000). Yet Bradford (2010) argues that the shift is because of a homogenisation of opinions in the UK where groups who previously had more confidence in the police have much less (such as the white middle classes), due to crime having a greater direct impact on their lives. In this case perhaps the media coverage of recent events will have impacted the attitudes of those who used to be more supportive of the police (Parmar 2014). However others believe that demographic variables still impact the public’s confidence in the police, through indirect factors such as area of residence or political orientations (Kershaw et al 2008, Mayhill and Beak 2008). Method and Methodology The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) (previously the British Crime Survey) is carried out continuously by the Home Office. It gathers data on the public’s perceptions of crime in Britain, with results published annually. This study uses data from the 2007/8 survey. It used a multi-staged stratified random sample, with the population split into categories and respondents randomly selected from those categories (Bryman 2012). The large sample (n=11,676), consists of adults aged over 16 in private households in England and Wales, increased reliability (Sapsford 2007). It was a cross sectional design, conducted at a single point in time (Neuman 2011) and data was gathered on a wide range of demographic variables and variables relating to perceptions and experiences of crime using face to face interviews. The survey includes a general measure of confidence in the police, a measure of the respondent’s opinion on the police’s fairness (‘the police in this area treat everyone fairly regardless of who they are’), and their effectiveness (‘the police are effective at catching criminals’). 120126071 3
In order to investigate the first and second research objectives, results from the police fairness and effectiveness questions were each cross-tabulated with the measure of general confidence in the police. This required the results from the measure of general confidence to be recoded from a scale variable to an ordinal variable (Acton et al 2009). Chi square tests of association were conducted for each cross-tabulation to determine whether an association existed between each pair. Cramer’s V test of significance was used to determine the strength of each association, thus addressing the third research question. Belief in police fairness was the variable giving the stronger result on Cramer’s V test of significance. It was taken forward to discover whether cause and effect could be inferred between it and the demographic variable of ethnicity. The ONS 16 Group Classification was used so as not to miss differences between subgroups (Garcia and Cao 2005). This variable was already weighted for the dataset, so required no further weighting (Bailey 2008). The data was again cross-tabulated and a chi-square test of association conducted. To simplify this process only ‘strongly agree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ respondents were included in the sample (Davis 2013). Cramer’s V again determined the strength of the association. This simple analysis of data from the British Crime Survey can give some indication of relationships between variables, however confidence in the police is a complex concept influenced by many different factors (Myhill and Quinton 2011). Therefore it is important to note that this is solely a bivariate analysis of associations between variables. A more sophisticated analysis is needed to fully understand the factors influencing respondents’ views on this topic. Moreover these variables will impact how respondents react to the questions, as different demographic groups have different conceptualisations of ‘fairness’ and ‘effectiveness’ (Stanko and Bradford 2009). Therefore it is important to remember that the BCS is based on self-report data and can only offer up peoples’ perceptions. Results and Discussion Table 1 illustrates that respondents who ‘strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’ that the police are effective at catching criminals are more likely to have a higher score on the general measure of confidence in the police. Similarly, table 2 demonstrates that respondents who ‘strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree’ that the police treat everyone fairly are more likely to have a higher score on the general measure of confidence in the police. The chi square tests showed both of these associations to be statistically significant (Table 1: x2 = 9175.13, df = 9, p <.20, Table 2: x2 = 1618.62, df = 15, p <.01) This suggests that both concepts influence the public’s confidence in the police and need to be taken into account, as suggested in the literature (Jackson and Bradford 2010, Mayhill and Beak 2008). 120126071 4
TABLE 1 - The impact of respondent's views about the effectiveness of the police on their confidence in the police in general Respondents' level of confidence in the police Total 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th sextile sextile sextile sextile sextile sextile (high (low score) score) 32 73 89 23 2 14.6% 33.3% 40.6% 10.5% 0.9% 43 240 1285 574 86 1.9% 10.7% 57.4% 25.6% 3.8% 8 51 567 712 298 0.5% 3.0% 33.6% 42.2% 17.6% 1 9 63 162 142 0.2% 1.9% 13.3% 34.3% 30.1% 84 373 2004 1471 528 1.8% 8.1% 43.4% 31.8% 11.4% Count 0 219 very confident % within effectiveness 'How confident are you that the fairly Count police are confident % within effectiveness effective at not very Count catching confident % within effectiveness not at all Count confident % within effectiveness criminals?' Count 0.0% 100.0% 12 2240 0.5% 100.0% 53 1689 3.1% 100.0% 95 472 20.1% 100.0% 160 4620 Total % within effectiveness 3.5% 100.0% (x2 = 1618.62, df = 15, p <.01, V =.342) Source: British Crime Survey 2007-2008 (Author’s analysis) TABLE 2 - The impact of respondent's views about the fairness of the police on their confidence in the police in general Respondents' level of confidence in the police Total 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th sextile sextile sextile sextile sextile sextile (high score) Count (low score) 203 632 393 87 11 15.3% 47.6% 29.6% 6.6% 0.8% 0 354 3481 1580 263 0.0% 6.2% 61.1% 27.7% 4.6% 0 21 738 1357 480 0.0% 0.8% 27.6% 50.8% 18.0% 0 3 105 396 398 0.0% 0.3% 10.1% 38.0% 38.2% 0 0 6 24 62 0.0% 0.0% 2.8% 11.3% 29.1% 203 1010 4723 3444 1214 1.9% 9.2% 43.1% 31.4% 11.1% 1 1327 strongly agree % within fairness Count 'The police in this area treat everyone fairly regardless of who they are' 0.1% 100.0% 23 5701 tend to agree % within fairness neither agree nor Count disagree % within fairness Count 0.4% 100.0% 74 2670 2.8% 100.0% 140 1042 tend to disagree % within fairness Count 13.4% 100.0% 121 213 strongly disagree % within fairness Count 56.8% 100.0% 359 10953 Total % within fairness 3.3% 100.0% (x2 = 9175.13, df = 9, p <.20, V =.458) Source: British Crime Survey 2007-2008 (Author’s analysis) 120126071 5
However the Cramer’s V tests revealed a stronger association between police fairness and public confidence (V =.458) than between police effectiveness and public confidence (V =.342). This is congruent with literature arguing for procedural justice theory (see Bradford 2012 for a good summary), as it can be inferred that the public’s level of confidence in the police will be based more on their evaluations of the police’s fairness towards individuals than their effectiveness in reducing crime. Moreover it also supports Jackson and Sunshine’s (2007) idea that there is a deeply symbolic element to how people view the police which relates to the way that the police engage in the community. The chi square test between ethnicity and belief in police fairness yielded an association significant at the 0.5 level, however Cramer’s V showed this association to have little significance (x2 = 17.76, df = 14, p <.05, V =.104). This result supports Bradford’s (2010) thesis of a homogenisation of attitudes towards the police. However it must be remembered that this is a simple bivariate analysis, and a more complex analysis such as the one offered by Stanko and Bradford (2009) may reveal more indirect associations between ethnicity and belief in police fairness. Moreover these results are 5 years old, and it could be argued that recent events such as the 2011 riots or the inquest into the police shooting of Mark Duggan may damage the confidence of certain ethnic minorities in the British police force (Parmar 2014, Stenson and Silverstone 2014). 120126071 6
TABLE 3 - The impact of respondents' ethnic origin on their belief in the fairness of the police 'The police in this area treat Total everyone fairly regardless of who they are' strongly agree Count strongly disagree 1163 257 1420 81.9% 18.1% 100.0% 15 4 19 78.9% 21.1% 100.0% 58 7 65 89.2% 10.8% 100.0% 2 2 4 50.0% 50.0% 100.0% 3 0 3 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% 3 0 3 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% 41 1 42 97.6% 2.4% 100.0% 20 4 24 83.3% 16.7% 100.0% 4 0 4 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% 9 0 9 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% 9 1 10 90.0% 10.0% 100.0% 19 3 22 86.4% 13.6% 100.0% 3 1 4 75.0% 25.0% 100.0% 3 0 3 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% 16 3 19 84.2% 15.8% 100.0% 1368 283 1651 82.9% 17.1% 100.0% white - british % within ethnic origin Count white - irish % within ethnic origin Count white - other white background % within ethnic origin Count mixed - white and black caribbean % within ethnic origin Count mixed - white and asian % within ethnic origin mixed - any other mixed Count background % within ethnic origin Count Respondent asian or asian british - indian % within ethnic origin ethnic origin (16 Count asian or asian british - pakistani % within ethnic origin categories) Count asian or asian british - bangladeshi % within ethnic origin asian or asian british - other asian Count background % within ethnic origin Count black or black british - caribbean % within ethnic origin Count black or black british - african % within ethnic origin black or black british - other black Count background % within ethnic origin Count chinese % within ethnic origin Count other ethnic group % within ethnic origin Count Total % within ethnic origin (x2 = 17.76, df = 14, p <.05, V =.104) Source: British Crime Survey 2007-2008 (Author’s analysis) 120126071 7
Conclusion The importance of police legitimacy cannot be underestimated in contemporary society (Myhill and Quinton 2011). This study demonstrates how police legitimacy is based more on the public’s assessments of police fairness than effectiveness in reducing crime. Policy has begun to recognise this reality since early 2000s, for example with the introduction of the service-based model of neighbourhood policing focusing more on the police’s interactions with the public rather than reducing crime rates (Tuffin et al 2006). But there is still progress to be made. The continuing ‘police culture’ (Loftus 2010:1) encourages officers to think in terms of fighting crime and is hostile to outside input (Foster 2003). Similarly, Mclean and Hiller’s (2011) research demonstrated that officers don’t see interaction with the public as important in increasing their legitimacy. Furthermore, although government policy now only has one top-down target for the police – increasing public confidence (Home Office 2008) – individual forces are still assessed primarily in terms of crime reduction (HMIC 2009a). From this study’s results it is clear that a more concentrated effort is required to bring the changes in policy to the level of police practice. Moreover this study provides support for the argument if a homogenisation of attitudes towards the police between different ethnic groups (Bradford 2010). However further research is necessary in order to fully comprehend the complex relationship between ethnicity and confidence in the police. Word Count – 2192 References: Acton, C, Millar, R. with Fullarton, D and Maltby, J. (2009) SPSS for social scientists. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. Bailey, K. (2008), Methods of Social Research (4th ed.), New York: The Free Press Bradford, B., (2011). ‘Convergence, not divergence? Trends and trajectories in public contact and confidence in the police’. British journal of criminology, 51(1), pp. 179-200. Bradford, B. (2012), ‘Policing and social identity: procedural justice, inclusion and cooperation between police and public’, Policing and Society, (1), pp. 1-22 Bradford, B., Jackson, J., and Stanko, E. (2009a). “Contact and confidence: Revisiting the impact of public encounters with the police.” Policing and Society. 19(1) pp. 20–46. Brown, B., & Benedict, W. R. (2002). ‘Perceptions of the police: Past findings, methodological issues and policy implications’. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, Vol. 25(3), pp. 543-580. Bryman, A. (2012) Social research methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press Clancy, A., Hough, M., Aust, R. and Kershaw, C. (2001) ‘Crime, Policing and Justice: the experience of ethnic minorities, findings from the 2000 British Crime Survey’ London: Home Office 120126071 8
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