AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Most citizens in democratic societies have confidence in their police (Bayley 1976; Cao and Dai 2006; Lipset and Schneider 1983; Roberts 2007; Zhao, Scheider, and Thurman 2002). Even so, these sentiments are not felt equally across all sectors of society. For example, in the United States, African Americans and Hispanics appear to evaluate law enforcement less favourably than do whites (Apple and O'Brien 1983; Brown and Benedict 2002; Garcia and Cao 2005; Jacob 1971; Parks 1984; Peek, Lowe, and Alston 1981; Percy 1980; Sampson and Bartusch 1998; Scaglion and Condon 1980; Unnever and Cullen 2007; Weitzer and Tuch 2005; Wu, Sun, and Triplett 2009). Similarly, racial minorities have been found to evaluate the police negatively in Britain (Smith 1991) and in Australia (Sivasubramaniam and Goodman-Delahunty 2008). Although racial conflict has not been as intense in Canada as in the United States, it is, nevertheless, an important issue in our daily lives (O'Connor 2008; Oreopoulos 2009; Perry and Sutton 2006; Satzewich and Shaffir 2009). The recent debate on racial profiling in the Toronto police may reveal only the tip of the iceberg (Satzewich and Shaffir 2009; Wortley and Tanner 2003). Unlike in the United States, relatively little is known about what opinions visible minority citizens in Canada have about the police (for exceptions, see Sprott and Doob 2009; O'Connor 2008).
The purpose of the current study is to investigate confidence in the police in Canada. The study of confidence in the police is important. Citizens' confidence in the police has been found, in the United States, to be related to their willingness to report crime, their readiness to share information about criminal activity, and their compliance with the law (Brown and Benedict 2002; Cao, Frank, and Cullen 1996; Chow 2002; Ren, Cao, Lovrich, and Gaffney 2005; Sunshine and Tyler 2003). A racial differential confidence in the police warrants special attention because it undermines the social integration of a community by creating multiple, parallel social differences based on ethnic groups. Unattended to, it creates a situation characterized by social disorganization and latent ethnic animosities. Facing the increased influx of visibly different ethnic groups into Canada, policing reform has been undertaken to improve the police's credibility and legitimacy among visible minorities (Ben-Porat 2008). While many Western democratic states debate their multicultural character and implement multicultural policies, Canada is unique in having formally adopted a multicultural identity, which has been translated into policy and provides Canada with comprehensive policy experience in relation to various issues, including policing.
The present research attempts to contribute to the existing literature on confidence in the police in three ways. First, it introduces a theory about racial attitudes toward the police. Second, it accords race a central role in models of confidence in the police. Although there have been two recent studies of Canadians' attitudes toward the police (Sprott and Doob 2009; O'Connor 2008), the effects of visible minorities, as a control variable in both, are inconsistent. With a more fine-grained measure that captures confidence in the police across six factors, the current study will be able to shed light on an issue that has not yet been settled. Third, building on the extant literature, we explore direct effects of social determinants of confidence in the police. Many studies of police-citizen relations focus on bi-correlation or examination of only a few demographic variables, which do not fully exhaust the range of determinants of confidence in the police. Citizen views are also strongly influenced by certain non-demographic factors that may confound the relationship between race and the police. Multivariate analyses are used to consider a wide range of both demographic and non-demographic factors, such as contact with the police (Cao et al. 1996; Chu and Song 2008; O'Connor 2008; Ren et al. 2005; Schafer, Huebner, and Bynum 2003; Weitzer and Tuch 2005) and the effect of community disorder (Sprott and Doob 2009).
Theory and literature
Blumer (1958) advances the thesis of the group position to explain why racial differences exist in citizens' attitudes toward the police. He argues that racial attitudes reflect not merely individual feelings and beliefs but also a collective "sense of group position" vis-a-vis other racial groups. The dominant group members are afraid of losing their privileges or resources to the growing competition of minority groups, and members of minority groups believe that their group interests will be enhanced by challenging the prevailing racial order. This group-position thesis has been used to explain inter-group racial attitudes (Blumer 1958; Kinder and Sanders 1996) and specifically to explain racial attitudes toward the police (Weitzer and Tuch 2005). According to Weitzer and Tuch, dominant racial groups see the police as allies, and they tend to hold more positive attitudes toward the police. When the police are criticized, the dominant group members may perceive their group interests as indirectly threatened. In contrast, minority members can be expected to be more inclined to view the police as engaging in frequent abuse of minority citizens, as providing insufficient services to their communities, or as treating people unfairly. This does not mean that minorities are monolithically critical of the police, but it does increase the chances that they will see police misconduct as both a general problem and one that particularly affects their interests.
Applying this theory to Canada, minority citizens are expected to view the police differently from the non-minority members, and they will tend to have a lower level of confidence in the police. In Canada, the absence until fairly recently of a substantial non-white population has made racial tension less prominent (Winks 1968). Because of discriminatory immigration policies before 1960, which barred Blacks, Orientals, and South Asians from entering Canada, up until 1970, less than 2% of the Canadian population, including Aboriginals, was considered to belong to visible minorities (Cardozo and Pendakur 2008). That racial conflicts are less prominent is due to this social reality, not to an absence of racial prejudice or racial discrimination among Canadians. (2) Canada, however, changed its immigration policies in the 1960s and adopted multiculturalism in 1971. When formalizing the policy through the Multiculturalism Act, the Canadian government declared that its policy was to "recognize and promote the understanding that multiculturalism reflects the cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society and acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage" (cited by Ben-Porat 2008: 416). Even so, racial conflict, racial tension, or racial prejudice remains an important issue in Canadian society. One recent study (Oreopoulos 2009) reported that those with English-sounding names received interview requests 40% more often than applicants with Chinese, Indian, or Pakistani names. Perry and Sutton (2006) found a lingering hostility toward intimate inter-racial relationships in Canadian media, especially those involving Black men and white women. Mirchandani and Chan (2007) demonstrated that poor people, in general, and people of colour, in particular, were the reasons for government's desire to roll back the welfare state. Satzewich and Shaffir (2009) concluded that racial profiling was perceived by the police as one of many activities that defined their work. Using Toronto Youth Crime and Victimization Survey, Wortley and Tanner (2003) reported that 51% of Blacks (vs. 23% of whites) were stopped and questioned by the police in the previous two years and this racial effect held even in the multivariate logistic regression analysis. All this empirical evidence indicates that, as a group, visible minorities in Canada may have a lower level of confidence in the police.
The Canadian literature on confidence in the police is sketchy. Roberts (2007) reports that Canadian citizens' confidence in the local police is higher than their confidence in the Supreme Court, prosecutors, courts, prison system, or parole system. Public perceptions of the police captured on four occasions in victimization surveys--1988, 1993, 1999, and 2004--were relatively stable over the 16 years. Roberts (2007), however, did not explore racial differences in perceptions nor the social determinants of confidence in the police. Two other studies on confidence in the police (Chow 2002; Chu and Song 2008) were based on local samples of Canadians of Chinese origin.
Sprott and Doob (2009), using the data of the General Social Survey Cycle …