Can anyone still trust the police?

As long as the public cannot see justice being properly exercised in the wake of evidence of police misconduct, then trust will need to be earned, rather than assumed.

What connects a murdered black teenager, a vulnerable man unlawfully killed on the streets of London, football supporters killed in a stadium disaster and a Tory chief whip?

Police misconduct has been implicated in all of these examples, and in the case of the investigation into her son’s death, Doreen Lawrence has recently issued a blanket statement claiming that you cannot trust the police.  

Following the recent publication of the Ellison report, alleging further corruption by the police during the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s murder in 1993, his father Neville Lawrence acknowledged that the family’s fight for justice is continuing.

Lack of trust in the police can often be seen as a problem for black people, and dismissed as people having a chip on their shoulders. But those failed by the police include victims of domestic violence who do not trust police to respond to their needs, people in custody with mental health problems such as Sean Rigg, and the victims of homophobic crimes.

From football fans, to those holding the highest office like Andrew Mitchell, everyone is a potential victim of police misconduct. Mitchell’s case prompted a universal cry of ‘join the club’ from the countless stop and search victims, and others who had shared his experience, and far worse, for decades.

No one wants to believe we cannot trust the police, because public confidence and trust in the police is an essential foundation of civil society, justice, and equality.

The importance of this need to believe and trust the police is so strong that even in the face of evidence to the contrary, public trust in the police remains strong.

Recent evidence suggests that the police remain among the most trusted profession, and even in Andrew Mitchell’s case, when holes started to appear in the police claims, public belief in their version of events remained largely unchanged.

This may able account for the inexplicable failing by a jury to convict former PC Simon Harwood after an inquest ruled that Ian Tomlinson had been unlawfully killed by Harwood

We do have to trust the police, but are in the uncomfortable position of knowing that we cannot fully do so. For this reason, many people also prefer to believe the ‘bad apples’ notion of individual culpability rather than institutional failings.

As long as the public cannot see justice being properly exercised in the wake of evidence of police misconduct, then trust will need to be earned, rather than assumed.

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3 Responses to “Can anyone still trust the police?”

  1. mypipsranout

    All my grandparents generation within my family were miners. I was eight when the miners strike happened. I learnt early that the police are a gang of brutal thugs who lie and collude and fake evidence to get whatever they want. The notion that the police are a non political entity to enforce democratic laws is the problem. They are inherently political. The only way to tackle corruption is to accept they are a group that have their own agenda, they go far beyond protecting and serving. Because they are seen purely as enforcers of law, rather than the frontline judges of law and order that they actually are, they are afforded undue respect and privilege. IMHO there’s no way we can end the culture of corruption until we have a serious discussion about our culture as a whole. Someone needs to “police the police” or we could rationally accept that no one group should be given absolute authority in any situation.

  2. swatnan

    We have to. On the whole the police do a good jog, but a difficult job. Not only to they have to contend with criminals and villians but they are required to police dissidents and all the ragtail of anti social behaviour individuals and families that are anti authortity. There is regretably a culture of anti aurhority, disrespect, and downright bolshiness in many communities these days. And it doesn’t help in keeping communities safe, particularly when they go out of their way in making the job of policing even more difficult than it already is.

  3. davidhill

    The Lawrence case is only the tip of the iceberg and where the establishment systems in the UK including the police are general corrupt when you undertake in-depth research of what is really going on internally –

    Dr David Hill
    Chief Executive
    World Innovation Foundation

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