Different Things to Different People? The Meaning and Measurement of Trust and Confidence in Policing Across Diverse Social Groups in London

Published: August 2010

One of the first actions of the new Home Secretary was to scrap public confidence as the single performance indicator of policing in England and Wales. But public trust and confidence will remain important to policing policy and practice. Trust and confidence can (a) encourage active citizen participation in priority setting and the running of local services, (b) make public bodies more locally accountable and responsive, and (c) secure public cooperation with the police and compliance with the law. Analysing survey data from London we find that overall ‘public confidence’ condenses a range of complex and inter-related judgements concerning the trustworthiness of the police. This is the case across different population groups and those with different experiences of crime and policing. Even recent victims and those worried about crime seem to place less priority on police effectiveness compared to police fairness and community alignment when responding to summary confidence questions. We argue that confidence summarises a motive-based trust that is rooted in procedural fairness and a social alignment between the police and the community. This social alignment is founded upon public assessments of the ability of the police to be a ‘civic guardian’ who secures public respect and embodies community values (Loader & Mulcahy, 2003). By demonstrating their trustworthiness to the public, the police can strengthen their social connection with citizens, and thus encourage more active civic engagement in domains of security and policing.

Authors / Editors

Research Themes

Criminal Justice Process and Institutions