Academic journal article Journal of the Institute of Justice and International Studies

Restoring the Lost Hope: A Multidimensional Approach for Building Public Trust in the Police

Academic journal article Journal of the Institute of Justice and International Studies

Restoring the Lost Hope: A Multidimensional Approach for Building Public Trust in the Police

Article excerpt

Public trust is a necessary condition for police effectiveness. A deficit of trust renders police institutions incapable of performing their duties. Studies conducted in Ghana have shown that citizens' trust in the police is significantly low. Hence, the need for a pragmatic approach to building and maintaining of trust in the police. The current paper adopts a multidimensional framework for restoring and maintaining trust in the Ghanaian police. The framework assumes that, there is no single most effective way of building citizens' trust in the police. Instead, there should be a constellation of strategies that work together to build trust. Broad recommendations including implementation of fear reduction strategies, increasing citizens' satisfaction, adherence to professional standards, institutional involvement, police-community partnership, and police-researcher collaboration are discussed.

Several studies have documented the importance of public trust in policing, especially in democratic societies where policing by consent is paramount (Boateng, 2012; Hough & Roberts, 2004; Jackson & Bradford, 2010; Mazerolle Antrobus, Bennett, & Tyler, 2013; Murphy & Chemey, 2012; Rosenbaum et al., 2005; Tyler, 2005). These studies have collectively shown that trust in the police leads to citizens' voluntary cooperation with law enforcement, as well as voluntary compliance with the laws being enforced. Citizens who trust the police willingly cooperate with police officers by either reporting crimes they witness or providing vital information leading to the apprehension of individuals who have violated criminal law (Flexon & Greenleaf, 2009). Prior studies have found evidence suggesting that public trust influences police effectiveness and legitimacy (Goldsmith, 2005; Hough, Jackson, Bradford, & Myhill, 2010; Hough, 2012; Sunshine & Tyler, 2003), and have argued that public trust legitimizes police actions (Hough et al., 2010). A legitimate police force faces minimal to no challenge to its authority and enjoys citizen cooperation (Tankebe, 2013; Resig, Tankebe, & Mesko, 2012). It is therefore apparent that public trust in the police is a vital ingredient to police operation and police effectiveness. An absence of trust can make police institutions ineffective and incapable of performing their duties. A police force suffering from the lack of trust faces difficulties in securing public cooperation and compliance (Memmo, Sartor, & di Cardano, 2003). Moreover, researchers have argued that without citizens' approval and consent, law enforcement agencies cannot fulfill their mission to police and consequently, public safety suffers (Frazier, 2007).

Recognizing the need for the police to build and maintain public trust, this article discusses strategies to enhance public trust and confidence in the Police. It needs to be mentioned that, though the article uses Ghana as a case study, the recommendations offered can be applied to other contexts, especially developing nations. The Ghana Police Service has suffered from public distrust and a lack of legitimacy for several years. Citizen trust in the police is currently very low, with only about 35% trusting the police to a great extent (Boateng, 2012). The low trust can be partly explained by excessive police misconduct, abuse, and corruption (Tankebe, 2010). This paper adopts a multidimensional framework perspective towards restoring and maintaining Ghanaians' trust in the police. The framework is based on the assumption that there is no single most effective way of building citizens' trust in the police; instead, a constellation of strategies must work together to build trust.

This article is structured in the following way: It begins by discussing policing in Ghana from a historical perspective, followed by a discussion on the contemporary relationship between the police and the public. The article then presents an analysis of the levels of trust in the police and the factors that influence these levels. …

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