Fri | Aug 12, 2022

Most J’cans willing to partner with cops despite trust deficit

Published:Thursday | June 2, 2022 | 12:08 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

While only one in three Jamaicans remains trusting of the police, the majority of citizens have indicated that they are willing to work with cops to reduce crime, the latest findings of the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) have revealed.

Results from its 2021 survey show that 33 per cent of Jamaicans trust the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) – a “non-significant increase” from 2019, when the rating was 30 per cent.

Furthermore, people who reside in Kingston are much more distrusting of the police and unwilling to work with them, when compared to residents of other parishes.

Since 2006, when Jamaica began participating in the study, police trust has remained below 50 per cent, with the lowest being 20 per cent in 2010, the year of the deadly operation in west Kingston triggered by a United States extradition request for Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.

“The results indicate that lack of trust in [the] police and their programming can prevent citizens from cooperating with law enforcement. This could cause a vicious cycle in which citizens and police are hesitant to interact due to a lack of trust, leading to further deterioration of relationships between police and local communities,” read a section of the report, which was launched on Wednesday.

LAPOP reasoned that this could also be related to the slow movement on major reforms within the JCF and the high crime rates across the country.

Of note, 50 per cent of Jamaicans in the study identified security as the most serious problem facing the country.

LAPOP urged policymakers to pay attention to the particular issues surrounding the relationship between citizens and law enforcement in Kingston as they seek to craft programmes to boost trust.

In presenting the findings, former director of the Institute of Criminal Justice and Security at The University of the West Indies, Professor Anthony Harriott, noted that Jamaicans were more trusting of the police in their community, compared to that at the national level.

Some 43 per cent of respondents gave a score of 5 to 7 on 1 to 7 scale (with 7 being the highest values) on the community measure, compared to 33 per cent when taking a national outlook.

“As you would expect, as it gets closer to their experience at the community level, that’s going to change positively,” Harriott said.

The study also found that there is a desire for stronger police-community relations, with 55 per cent of Jamaicans expressing a willingness to work with the police to help reduce crime.

IMPORTANT ACTOR

Meanwhile, Harriott said the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has become an important actor in day-to-day crime-fighting.

Members of the JDF have been deployed in police-military operations under zones of special operations and intermittent states of emergency (SOE).

“Trust in the JDF has traditionally been high. It took a dip on this last cycle and Jamaicans wouldn’t be surprised, because [of the] increased involvement, increased enlistment at the JDF – more soldiers are on the streets – and quite a few incidents of abuse of power were reported in the news media, and so the entire population is aware,” he explained.

Sixty-one per cent of Jamaicans indicated that they trust the JDF, compared to 63.2 per cent in 2019.

Though trust decreased in 2021, the JDF retained the highest level of trust among the institutions studied.

LAPOP conducted some 3,000 telephone interviews between May and July 2021.

Participants were contacted by a call centre via random-digit dialling.