English title: Trust in and Attitudes towards the Police: Empirical Analyses for Europe with a Special Focus on Switzerland

Author(s): Silvia Staubli -

Language: English

Type: Thesis / dissertation

Year: 2014


The question underlying this thesis is what shapes people’s perception of the police. It aims to contribute to the field of trust and attitudinal research in several ways. Firstly, institutional approaches will be considered, perceiving the police as part of wider governmental institutions. Secondly, theories of procedural justice will be looked at. They argue that fair decisions and respectful treatment largely contribute to institutional legitimacy and trustworthiness. To the contrary of procedural justice approaches are instrumental arguments. In them, police’s effectiveness is seen as central to people’s trust in them. Whether the police are doing a good job, fighting crime effectively, is more important than the use of adequate procedures and correct behavior. These approaches enter into the analyses in the way that the global notion of trust in the police will be linked to global statements about police’s procedural fairness and effectiveness. Moreover, the level of satisfaction in concrete interactions with the police will be taken into account. In the trust-building process, institutional representatives play an important role, as mentioned in procedural justice theories. To go one step further, interactions with police officers are expected to be influenced by social trust. A culture marked by a general openness towards strangers may contribute not only to a higher trust in interactions with ordinary people, but may also be transferable to institutional representatives. The link between social trust and institutional trust is widely confirmed, especially for trust in political institutions such as the government or political parties. Since studies dealing primarily with trust in the police are rare, social trust will be taken into account as an explanatory force in the analyses to come. Studies within the field of attitudes towards the police are often based on local surveys. Cross-country analyses with data from large opinion polls are rather seldom. More than just global and concrete attitudes towards the police will be linked here. Another aim is to link cross-national analyses with a concrete in-depth country study. A country study of Switzerland will follow the search for correlations at a cross-country level. It will be tested whether the links can be proven in a single country marked by high levels of trust in the police. In addition to the European level, not only police stops but also victim-initiated contact will be analyzed.


Awarding institution: University of Zurich

Number of pages: 213

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