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Trust in the Police in 16 European Countries: A Multilevel Analysis

NCJ Number
European Journal of Criminology Volume: 4 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2007 Pages: 409-435
Juha Tapio Kaariainen
Date Published
October 2007
27 pages
Using multilevel analysis, this study identified the factors associated with the considerable variation in public trust of the police in 16 European countries.
The study found that the least amount of trust in the police was in the former socialist countries in Eastern Europe, and the greatest amount of trust in the police was in the Nordic countries. The quality and structure of the system of government clearly influenced the degree of citizens' trust in the police of their countries. The level of corruption in the system of government in general clearly decreased trust in the police and probably in other public service institutions as well. Also, the structure of the government and service systems was significantly related to public trust in the police. The fewer resources societies invest in public safety services, the more trust citizens have in the police. This may be explained by the fact that countries with extensive welfare services and social security generally use fewer resources for public safety services; whereas, countries with large investments in public safety services typically devote fewer resources to social security networks. In the Nordic welfare states, the degree of public trust in the functioning of the entire system of government is high, and this trust is also enjoyed by the police. Although trust in the police apparently derives mainly from trust in the competence and effectiveness of a government's system of delivering overall services to citizens, it is also related to citizens' experiences in personal contacts with police. As with the government in general, citizens also develop trust in the police as a result of their fairness and respect in dealing with citizens. 4 tables, 43 references, and appended descriptions of individual-level explanatory variables