Trust levels in the police are falling in England

The University of Glasgow has contributed to research that finds only 40% of people in England trust their police force.

The study, commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council (ERSC), spotlights London’s Metropolitan Police as the area where women trust the least - and Conservative voters have higher levels of trust in the force.

Professor Thomas Scotto was part of a team of researchers who surveyed more than 8,000 men and women between July 2022 and September 2023, and found women generally trust police more than men. But among the nine English regions surveyed, compared with men, women’s trust is at its lowest in London.

It comes after a 2023 investigation triggered by outrage at the rape, abduction and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, uncovered hundreds of other incidents of violence against women by serving Metropolitan Police Officers.

"Baroness Louise Casey ran an investigation into the Met, and she issued a scathing report, saying drastic action was needed," said Brunel University London Honorary Professor, Steven Pickering. "But our research suggests that public trust in the Met is even lower than Baroness Casey found. This is especially pronounced among women and ethnic minorities."

Trust in the police is crucial for a stable society, but it’s not the same for everyone. Some feel safer than others depending on factors like age, race, income, politics and past brushes with the law. Older people have higher levels of trust in the police, researchers found, while ethnic minority people have significantly lower levels of trust. People from ethnic minorities living in North East England trusted police markedly less than anywhere else in England.

Professor Thomas Scotto, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Social and Political Sciences, said: "The most interesting finding is the significant differences in gender that vary by England’s regions. Some, but not all, cross national studies of citizen trust in their police forces found women to be more trusting. But it may also be the case that women are also more likely than men to lose trust in an organisation when there are objective reasons to do so. This is what we may be seeing in the data in terms of the lower confidence women have in the Met."

While the Met says itself, its vision is ’to be the most trusted police service in the world,’ in 2023, more than 1,000 Met officers were suspended or on restricted duties for allegations including violence against women and girls, sexual violence and domestic violence, according to figures from the BBC.

"Our findings suggest that the task ahead of the Met police is monumental," said Professor Pickering. "Some of the factors are national problems, such as the lower trust amongst people with an ethnic minority background, while other factors are an issue for the Met alone, such as the clear problem for the Met in re-establishing trust among women.

"Overall, our results suggest that there is significant work ahead for police forces generally in England with regards to restoring trust in the police among ethnic minority citizens and in London especially also among women."

The work Professor Scotto and his colleagues have undertaken on trust in the police is part of a wider project measuring trust in a variety of institutions and processes in Japan and England. This Trust Tracker project is jointly funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.