Only 40% of people in England trust their police force, research reveals

<span>The survey found 34.6% of Londoners trusted the Metropolitan police overall, and 33.8% of women.</span><span>Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian</span>
The survey found 34.6% of Londoners trusted the Metropolitan police overall, and 33.8% of women.Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian

Only four out of 10 people in England say they trust the police, with the UK’s biggest force, the Metropolitan police, getting the lowest confidence score, research has found.

The poll surveyed nine English regions, in eight of which female respondents had greater trust in the police than male respondents. But for the Met in London, hit by a succession of scandals, women trusted Britain’s largest force less than men.

The poll, which revealed significantly lower trust among ethnic minorities in policing than among white people, comes before a general election where law and order and crime are expected to be a big issue.

The poll followed work by academics commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council, and is published in the journal Policing and Society. It concludes that the task facing the Met, in terms of its reputation, is “monumental”.

Eight thousand people were surveyed from July 2022 to September 2023, a period after Wayne Couzens was convicted of abusing his powers as a Met officer to kidnap and murder Sarah Everard, and which included the unmasking of his colleague, David Carrick, as one of the worst ever serial sexual attackers, who was allowed to stay in the Met despite a slew of allegations against him.

Respondents were asked to rate how much they trusted the police, and across all of England 41% of people said they did so, including 42% of women and 40% of men.

The poll revealed a potentially large “race gap”: while 42.6% of white British respondents said they trusted the police, only 32.1% of other people said they did.

The sample size was large enough to show regional differences. In the south-east, trust in policing was highest, at 43.5% for both men and women, and stood at 45% for white British people in that region – but only 31.6% for those of other ethnicities.

The Met scored the lowest percentages, with 34.6% of Londoners saying they trusted it, made up of 35.5% of men and 33.8% of women.

One of the academics who led the study, Steve Pickering of the University of Amsterdam, said: “It looks like policing has lost legitimacy and that it has been undermined by a succession of high-profile scandals.”

Other polling, carried out on behalf of forces and their police and crime commissioners, has put trust and confidence scores at 60% to 80%. Pickering said that polling was likely to have used a different methodology, and that he and his colleagues were confident of their findings: “We have been asking this question repeatedly, and over a long time, and are getting the same results.”

Last year, the Met was condemned for wholesale failings in the Casey review. Pickering said: “Our research suggests that public trust in the Met is even lower than Baroness Casey found.”

A Met police spokesperson said: “We are determined to earn back the trust of women and girls whose confidence in policing has been shaken by events of recent years.

“Through our violence against women and girls action plan we are transforming how we protect women and girls including seeing more predators brought to justice, more victims protected from harm and safer spaces for women and girls to enjoy.

“We are creating bigger teams to reduce caseloads of officers, provide a better service to victims and survivors and improving training.”