Trust in the police

I’m always struck by the different types of policing across the world. When it comes to everyday interactions between police officers and civilians on street corners or at non-threatening traffic stops, there seems to be a few different approaches.

In South Africa, our police by and large take a soft approach with civilians during routine, non-threatening interactions. This means that you can talk to them freely, engage with them with no fear, and even disagree with them pretty forcefully when they are operating a non-threatening scene. At traffic stops it is routine to see civilians share a joke and a laugh with police officers. Of course officers will be more strict and forceful in crisis times or in emergencies, but when there is no threat, they treat civilians very well and can share a joke. 

How do police officers treat civilians where you’re from? Do you trust the police?

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Irvin Blake
July 18, 2022 8:55 am

Do I trust the police? In a word. No.

Believe me when I say, I want to trust the police. They make difficult. Of course there are truly upstanding individuals in law enforcement. There are officers who want to do the right thing, to protect and to serve. They go out of their way, putting their lives on the line to make society a safer and better place. We cannot, however, ignore the numbers.

The Stanford Open Policing Project found that black drivers were 20% more likely to be stopped by the police than white drivers. The research also found that black drivers were searched up to 2 times as often as white drivers.

For a long time America has been losing confidence in the police. In a 2020 Gallup poll, 48% of adults trusted the police a ‘great deal or quite a lot’. The survey found Americans trusted small business, the military and the medical system more than the police. But here’s the main point. 56% of white adults trust the police and only a paltry 19% of black adults feel the same way.

I can’t write this post without mentioning the trigger happy shootings. If you wonder why there’s hesitation in being stopped by the police, we just need to look at police murders. By no means an exhaustive list, here are the names of some black people killed in the US by the police:

Stephon Clark, 22
Shot 20 times for holding a mobile phone in his grandmother’s back yard. No criminal charges were filed for his murder.

Botham Jean, 26
Shot by a police officer because they thought Botham was an intruder in their apartment. In fact he was in his OWN apartment eating food, chilling on his sofa.

Atatiana Jefferson, 28
Shot and killed in front of her 8 year old nephew because her front door was left open.

The list can go on and on. But let’s have another if the point I’m making isn’t strong enough.

George Floyd, 46
Killed for trying to use a $20 counterfeit note. His death led to the global Black Lives Matter protests to demand and end to this police brutality. Enough is enough!

When you are being killed because of nothing more than the color of your skin, how can we trust the police? As for your question “How do police officers treat civilians where you’re from?”, need I say more?

George Floyd.PNG
July 15, 2022 4:32 pm

No single day passes here without a scene. Sounds funny but that’s how we live it here. Social Media has been the active strong voice of the masses in criticizing our leaders. Few years back, #EndSars on Twitter became viral and it’s still active now. This was staged as a protest to the government against police brutalization and harassment of young good-looking innocent citizens, especially guys accused of being internet fraudsters. Every good-looking guy here working or trading online is seeing as an internet fraudster because they don’t believe you can earn money legally online. Bunch of illiterates in our security forces here. That’s the truth. You can’t argue with them unless you want to lose your life to one bullet. Not only do they harass and arrest guys, they also extort money forcefully from them. I remembered reading in the news one day when a Nigerian living abroad came to Nigeria for a visit and he was killed by the police on account that he has pictures of whites and foreigners on his phone. That was their proof he is a criminal.

Nigerian police in general tend to feel superior when they are in uniform and they take advantage of their power. They actually go about harassing people unnecessarily in a bid to collect money from them. Yes you read right. Traffic police literally stops moving buses and taxis to collect money. It’s insane. What’s more, they first waste your time and then they ask that you tip them. The police station is actually a place where you pay before the police can render any form of service. And Nigerian police are actually the last people to show up to an ongoing robbery.

July 18, 2022 5:07 am

This might sound a bit weird but sometimes I try to avoid the police because of guilt by association. Maybe it’s just me but being a suspect really wigs me out. I can be totally innocent, but the idea that I could even be thought of being involved creeps me out. I don’t know if it’s just me being hyper paranoid or if other people have this feeling too, but sometimes I just walk by the police and get uncomfortable.

This happens when I’m traveling too. I’ve done nothing wrong. Purchased my tickets legitimately. Then I get stopped by an attendant while they let everyone else pass. WTF? I get so paranoid then even though I know I’ve done everything by the book – visa, tickets, vaccination etc. This happened a while back when going through customs at the airport. I had nothing to declare and my luggage was going through the scanner. I thought I’d pick my bags up and go toward the exit. Didn’t happen. I was stopped by security and asked to open up my bags. I wouldn’t mind if everyone else had to do it, but I was singled out. Again, I didn’t have any contraband or anything but I got big time anxious.

Then there’s this time I saw some girl’s bag being stolen at a Subway restaurant. I was with a buddy indoors while 2 backpackers girls were sitting outside. They had a ton of bags sprawled out beside them. Then this dude came by next to them (I thought he was a friend of theirs), picked up one of their bags and ran off. The girls must have been tired from all their traveling as they didn’t flinch or notice it at all. I blurted out to my buddy, did you just see that!? I think their bag got stolen! I went out to tell the girls that someone took their bag and they panicked of course, but thanked me for telling them. But about 5 mins later when I was leaving with my buddy, I could see their eyes on me. Did they think I had taken their bag? Whatever they thought, I felt uneasy that they’d think I was the guy who took their bag.

So do I trust the police? I guess I do and I don’t. Whatever the case, authority wigs me out!

Olinka Kares
July 16, 2022 4:05 pm

Here in the Czech Republic, interactions with police officers seem to depend on their mood and time of day. I’ve met quite a few nice and helpful police officers. My sister had to call the police when her car got scratched. They were very polite and happy to help.

On the other hand, I’ve had negative experiences too. Once, my friend and I were driving at night, and we got pulled over. She was driving and I was in the passenger seat. I reached over to get something out of my bag. The police officer immediately handcuffed me because he thought I was reaching for a weapon. Of course, it was nothing of the sort, I was merely reaching for my phone. They were very rude and disrespectful, treating us like garbage, even though we did nothing wrong.

I don’t want to say that police officers in the Czech Republic are predominantly bad or good, rude or friendly; everybody’s different. I suspect some of them are on a power trip and they want to feel important, while others really care about helping people and saving lives.

Taabia Ahmed
July 15, 2022 7:53 am

In some cities in Pakistan, police are warm and welcoming, performing their duties well to guard civilians and properties. However in major metropolitan cities, the system fails badly. Generally people aren’t comfortable in the presence of police here, the perception isn’t positive. Bad manners is one thing. Bribery is another. Even in cases of small crimes like thefts, many victims would rather avoid contact with policemen because they assume bribery will be part of the conversation. The police network needs a major upgrade here in Pakistan. Almost every other day there is a debate on news channels about how reforms should be introduced. The government suggested increasing salaries to overcome the incidence of bribery but the problem remains. Unfortunately in Pakistan, trust in the police is low. Many civilians are worried of being extorted of their money and there is an issue with safety. Police have been responsible for many ‘encounter killings‘, killings by the police disguised as shoot outs.