Using Research to Inform Policy: The Role of Public Attitude Surveys in Understanding Public Confidence and Police Contact

Published: December 2009

This article summarizes evidence on contact and confidence from the British Crime Survey and surveys conducted by the Metropolitan Police Service. First, falls in public confidence over the last 20 years have been mirrored by growing dissatisfaction with personal contact. Second, while poorly handled encounters with the police can have a significant negative impact on subsequent confidence, there is some recent evidence that well-handled contacts can have a small but positive impact. More promisingly, high visibility and feeling informed about police activities are both associated with greater confidence in policing. Finally, we discuss how the Metropolitan Police Service is using survey data to improve police handling of interactions with the public. Communication between officers and the public—of information, of fairness and respect, and of police presence—appears to be of central importance.

Authors / Editors

Research Themes

Evidence, Statistics and Trends

General Resources

Gender, Crime and Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice Process and Institutions