ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Violence and Trust in Police in India

The police are a state institution that citizens are familiar with, but the perception of this institution among the people depends on the amount of trust vested in the police. Empirical application of ordered probit models on the India Human Development Survey-II data set suggests that the recent experience of violence faced by a household affects its trust in the police significantly. The trust varies widely across regions and communities in India, both for households that did or did not experience recent violence. Training the police forces them to approach cases with empathy and a shift to community-based policing may help to bridge the trust deficit.

The views expressed in this paper are personal and not necessarily of the institution the authors belong to. The authors are grateful to Debdatta Pal and Somdeep Chatterjee, whose comments and suggestions substantially improved an earlier exposition, and to Wriju Ghosh for help with data handling and coding in STATA and R. The authors would also like to thank the India Human Development Survey team for keeping a very useful data set on India in the public domain.

Trust is often viewed as social capital (Fukuyama 1996; Seligman 2000; Ahlerup et al 2009; Rothstein 2013). It lubricates financial transactions (Duarte et al 2012) and business-to-business relationships (Mouzas et al 2007). It leads to more efficient resource organisation in established sectors (for example, tourism [Nunkoo et al 2012]), and helps establish nascent ones (for example, e-commerce [Gefen 2000; Teo and Liu 2007]). Trust also increases the rate of investment and growth in an economy (Zak and Knack 2001; Horvath 2013) and is considered as the “missing root relating education, ins­titutions, and economic development” (Bjornskov and Méon 2013). Among various institutions in a country, the police are an important one. Managing trust is important in policing ­because the police, being an integral part of the state machinery, are generally the first victim of negative perception among institutions (Blanco 2013). Without trust in the police, many crimes go unreported.1 The persistent non-reporting of crime encourages delinquents and, in a cascading effect, blocks economic development (Corbacho et al 2015).

Internationally, public attitude towards the police has been analysed extensively. Juha Tapio Kääriänen (2007) (on 16 ­European countries), G Thomassen (2013) (on 50 countries from different parts of the world) and Corbacho et al (2015) (on 19 Latin American countries) are cross-country studies on this topic. Jesilow et al (1995) and Cao et al (1996) (the United States [US]), Yuning Wu and Ivan Y Sun (2009) (China), Justice Tankebe (2010) (Ghana), Merry et al (2012) (the United Kingdom [UK]), Lincoln Fry (2013) (South Africa), Luisa R Blanco (2013) (Mexico), Sun et al (2014) (Taiwan), Sargeant et al (2014) (Australia) and Maarten Van Craen and Wesley G Skogan (2015) (Belgium) are some other studies on trust in the police in individual countries. These studies attempt to relate trust in the police with individual and group attributes. Three consistent patterns emerge from this literature. First, the public perception of police varies substantially across countries and within a country, across regions. Second, more distrust in police is observed among minorities. And third, trust is often established or changed through direct contact.

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Updated On : 3rd Jan, 2021
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