Ekaterina Botchkovar, Marc Swatt
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Levels of public confidence in police vary greatly internationally, yet little is known about the causes of this variation. At the same time, studies demonstrate that public confidence in the police is a requirement for police effectiveness. It is therefore critical to develop a better understanding of the factors that influence public perceptions of the police. In this dissertation, I investigate public confidence in the police and seek to identify country-level factors which contribute to its variation cross-nationally. I approach this study from Rawls' conception of political legitimacy. I hypothesize that level and stability of democracy in government increase confidence in the police, while government corruption lowers this confidence. I further hypothesize that these effects are particularly exaggerated among ethnic minority groups. To test these hypotheses, I conduct a cross-national, multi-level study on the impact of individual and country-level factors on public confidence in the police. This study includes more countries, more recent data, and a larger range of country-level explanatory variables than any existing cross-national research on confidence in the police. In order to take a deeper look at the importance of government context for public confidence in the police over time, I also undertake a case study of two new democracies, Lithuania and the Czech Republic. I compare public confidence in the police in these nations to that in an older, more stable democracy, the United Kingdom.
Results from the multi-level study indicate that government corruption and ethnic diversity reduce public confidence in the police, while a high degree of democracy increases this confidence. Corruption likely mediates the relationship between the stability of democracy and confidence in the police. Further, ethnic minority groups may have less confidence in the police in more corrupt countries, but their levels of confidence do not seem to depend on whether or not a country is democratic. However, missing data problems prevent any definitive conclusions regarding confidence in the police among minority populations. I do not find evidence that police organizational structure impacts people's confidence in the police. Results of the case study confirm multi-level findings; but they also point to the possibility that too much government corruption reduces the positive impact of a high level of democracy on confidence in the police. Collectively, these results suggest that reduction of government corruption may be the most important thing a nation can do to garner confidence in the police among its citizens. Thus, although nascent democracies historically prioritize structural re-organization efforts to reform the police, they may derive greater benefit from reducing public perceptions of government corruption.
Camie Sloan Morris
Morris, Camie Sloan, "A cross-national study on public confidence in police" (2011). Criminal Justice Dissertations. Paper 5. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20001080
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