Natalia Taubina on the low level of public trust in the police

posted 10 Nov 2011, 23:52 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 Nov 2011, 23:58 ]
In Moscow not only have people not seen improvements in practice, but they have very likely been irritated by the official propaganda about the “successes” of the reform. This is in part because they have greater access to information from a range of sources than, for example, those living in the rural areas. Those living in rural areas, and also in small and middle-sized urban areas, it should be noted, get most of their news from the national TV stations, newspapers and radio. 

“This is now the third time the Index of Public Trust in the Police has been measured. The first time was in November last year, the second in March this year. It is now possible to follow the dynamic of the public evaluation of the police, the expectations the public have, and their readiness to cooperate with the police. 

If we look at the national situation, over one year the Index of Trust has gone up by nearly 10 points, a fact which of course bears witness that society as a whole has heard about the reforms in progress, hopes for changes for the better, and is ready to give the police the opportunity to earn the trust of the public. However, at a level of greater detail these evaluations can be seen mask a number of changes. A year ago the most critical people lived in middle-sized urban areas (with populations from 100,000 to 500,000): today this group is among those that trust the police the most (the level of trust is higher only among people living in villages). But people living in Moscow have sharply changed their attitude to the police. If one year ago the Index of Trust among Muscovites was +1, then now it is -11. 

In my opinion, this important tendency is symbolic and is directly linked to an assessment of the reform process. In Moscow not only have people not seen improvements in practice, but they have very likely been irritated by the official propaganda about the “successes” of the reform. This is in part because they have greater access to information from a range of sources than, for example, those living in the rural areas. Those living in rural areas, and also in small and middle-sized urban areas, it should be noted, get most of their news from the national TV stations, newspapers and radio. 

To this must be added the fact that, in population centres of these kinds, the social links between the public and police officers is much closer, and if people do not have personal negative experiences of the police, then their assessment, strengthened by triumphal reports about the course of reform on the TV screens, becomes more positive. 

I am certain that, for the purpose of achieving a genuine reform­ of the police, independent surveys of the level of public trust of the police are extremely valuable. They allow us to see as it were in real time how society is evaluating the reform process, and also the work of the police as a whole. They allow us to see the dynamic in public attitudes, to correct policy and, in good time, take the necessary administrative decisions to improve the situation and ensure greater security for the public.” 

- from 'Only 6% of Citizens Believe the Police are Effective', HRO.org in English, translated from HRO.org, 9 November 2011

Natalia Taubina lives in Moscow and is director of the Public Verdict Foundation.
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