Trust in the Police: Cross-country Comparisons
Using different cross-country data sets and simple econometric techniques we study public attitudes towards the police. More positive attitudes are more likely to emerge in the countries that have better functioning democratic institutions, less prone to corruption but enjoy more transparent and accountable police activity. This has a stronger impact on the public opinion (trust and attitudes) than objective crime rates or density of policemen. Citizens tend to trust more in those (policemen) with whom they share common values and can have some control over. The latter is a function of democracy. In authoritarian countries — "police states" — this tendency may not work directly. When we move from semi-authoritarian countries to openly authoritarian ones the trust in the police measured by surveys can also rise. As a result, the trust appears to be U-shaped along the quality of government axis. This phenomenon can be explained with two simple facts. First, publicly spread information concerning police activity in authoritarian countries is strongly controlled; second, the police itself is better controlled by authoritarian regimes which are afraid of dangerous (for them) erosion of this institution.
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