The new article from Dr Clare Griffiths explores trust and confidence in the police amongst established residents and Polish migrants
Keele Criminology’s Dr Clare Griffiths has a new publication in the European Journal of Criminology that is now available online. The article, entitled ‘The Disjuncture between Confidence and Cooperation: Police Contact amongst Polish Migrants and Established Residents’, is based on Clare’s PhD research that explored Polish migration and its impacts on social order in a small working class town in the North West of England. The article itself considers the trust and confidence in the local police amongst both the more established residents of the area as well as the incoming Polish migrants, and how this affects actual contact and cooperation with the police. Despite claims that immigrant and minority groups are more often alienated from local institutions and are less likely to express positive evaluations of the police, Clare’s research found that Polish migrants in fact have greater confidence in the local police than do local residents. In an attempt to explain such findings, Dr Griffiths suggests a ‘habitus’ model whereby past histories of police corruption could be entrenched in the minds of Polish migrants helping to shape the more positive perceptions and interactions with the police in their new social setting. A further explanation for such positive attitudes was provided in the form of a general lack of ‘social distance’ between Polish migrants and the local community in the area. One of the key findings from the PhD was such a lack of social distance in the form of ‘civilised relationships’ between Polish migrants and local residents and could therefore extend to perceptions of local institutions such as the police.
Confidence in the police is argued to be a necessary precursor to cooperation. However, the findings in the article suggest that confidence does not necessarily have a direct role to play in police-community cooperation. Although new migrants have confidence in the local police, they remain reluctant to contact them and they report crime incidents less as compared to the local group who have less confidence in the police. This seems mostly due to language difficulties and fear of reprisals from within their own group. Local residents on the other hand have less confidence in the police but are more likely to contact them when needed. Therefore, inhabitants of contemporary diverse neighbourhoods can be simultaneously ‘disenchanted and engaged’ or ‘satisfied and disengaged’. This suggests more complex and nuanced processes exist in diverse and changing neighbourhoods than that previously proposed in a predominantly American context and has important implications for learning about the unique and complex relationships that diverse communities have with the police.