The function of the police lies in enforcing laws, in other words, monitoring and providing the obedience of the population to them. This is possible solely on the condition of trustworthy relationships between the two sides, which, in turn, requires confidence in the police and perceiving them as a reliable and helpful authority. In practice, however, public opinion may be substantially different from this hypothetical ideal model.
The paper explores the attitude of Canadian people to the police at the current stage. It also seeks to identify the probable reasons why the actual situation does not correspond to the desirable as well as offers relevant solutions. Those primarily lie in further advancement of staffing policies and recommendations on behavior, which would allow for reducing the percentage of Canadians whose impression of law enforcement is negative.
In total, the attitude of the population across Canada to the police is quite positive rather than negative, although the discontent is non-negligible. Notably, almost a half of the residents have “some confidence” in this authority, while 41% report “a great deal of confidence” (Ibrahim, 2020, para. 1). From one group of people to another, however, the rates may differ. Thus, the black and the representatives of First Nations, youngsters, and city dwellers are less likely to trust the police than the white, the elderly, and country people are, respectively. The detail as well as the analysis of the most probable roots of such a picture is below.
As apparent from the above, Canadian society is supportive and critical about the police in parallel. In one respect, three quarters of the residents believe that the offices in their communities perform their duties as appropriate, and 72% proclaim that they are proud of those (Kurl & Korzinski, 2020, para. 3). Along with this, the same people frequently have concerns about the officers’ attitude to certain categories of population. The biggest of those apparently includes individuals of color, such as black and indigenous, whom the law enforcement is quite commonly believed to be treating improperly.
It is worth noting that the perceptions of the police at the federal and local levels may not coincide. According to CBC News (2020), 39% of those who took part in the recent pool consider the racial prejudice of the national force a serious problem, and 34% believe that it may take place in certain cases (para. 4). When it turns to the situation in their own communities, however, the share of those who support the given viewpoints drops to 27% for both (CBC News, 2020, para. 6). The possible reason for this is unequal awareness of the events in the local neighborhood and in the entire country.
In addition, the statistics are area-specific, which means varying not solely from province to province, but also by the type of the community. The percentage of rural population who believe that racism is common in officers is two times lower in comparison with that of city dwellers. The share of those who do not see any racial issues, in turn, is 15% higher (CBC News, 2020, para. 7). The point at which the two views intersect is the assumption that the police may demonstrate racism occasionally, but this is not a major problem. Notably, a quarter or slightly more of both urban and rural residents have such an opinion (CBC News, 2020, para. 7). It presumably is the most appropriate in terms of balance due to the lowest degree of bias involved.
Issue of Use of Force
Another big objection to Canadian police is the methods on which they normally rely. Specifically, 27% of the population agree that the officers “are too quick to use force to solve a problem” (CBC News, 2020, para. 12). This is among the possible reasons why people with disabilities, especially mental or cognitive, are 5-10% less likely to trust them than the healthy (Ibrahim, 2020, para. 3). The potential harm in case of an injury apparently is bigger for the former, which can make them less confident in law enforcement.
The views of whether financial investments in the police currently are appropriate also vary depending on the group of population. In total, 34% agree that they are, while 25% insist on defunding (CBC News, 2020, para. 13). The vast majority of those are young and have a higher education; regarding the regional proportion, it is noticeably higher in southern provinces as compared to the northern (Kurl & Korzinski, 2020, para. 34). This is one of the examples of how age and approval of the police’s performance are directly proportional, which actually is apparent across Canada.
Reasons for Misperception
Negative Personal Experience
The quantity and character of interactions with police officers are among the essential determinants of the attitude to them. People between 18 and 34 years of age, according to Kurl & Korzinski (2020), make the most considerable share of Canadians who have had such experience within the recent 5 years (para. 21). Of those, 1 in 5 describes it as rather or completely negative, which percentage is far from the majority but still quite substantial. It is worth noting that the proportions are especially high in the indigenous population, of whom only a third can share positive impressions (Kurl & Kozinski, 2020, para. 22). Consequently, these categories of the residents of Canada mostly feel less secure when they notice an officer.
An essential nuance is that social trust is directly dependent on social status as well as behavior. Thus, Connaughton (2020) mentions active participation in community life among the factors of trusting the other, presumably not excluding the police. As an average youngster in practice behaves more individualistically than an older individual, the above tendencies look quite natural. This principle also is possible to apply to city and country dwellers, respectively.
Other parameters to factor into the degree of trust are education and income; the dependence is direct, as sense of security apparently grows together with those. Meanwhile, the rates of both the possession of a degree and employment in Canada remain higher for the white population as compared to indigenous. Thus, in 2016, 68.3% of First Nation people and 70.4% of white Canadians had post-secondary education. Regarding jobs, 57.5% of the former and 62.1% of the latter had those in 2019 (“Income levels and education,” n.d., para. 1, 3). Generally, less educated and wealthy indigenous people consequently are less trusting.
Correcting the Misperception
It is essential to take into consideration that the way in which the public see the police determines the readiness to cooperate with those. Notably, the less confident people are in how well the officers fulfil their functions, the less enthusiastically they abide to laws and orders, report crimes, and participate in investigations (Ibrahim, 2020). A positive image of law enforcement therefore is critical for reducing the level of crime and providing public security.
The above rates of negative experiences in interaction with police officers determine the need for improving the tolerance of those. This may require a reconsideration of staffing strategies to ensure that none of the officers employed relies on age, ethnicity, or any other identities in forming his or her attitude to people. Simply stated, it is unacceptable to treat certain groups of the population better or worse than the other.
Regarding the use of force, which also is among major concerns, it may be relevant to both recompose the list of the situations where it is permissible and monitor following the regulations in practice. The possible measures include more frequent and/or thorough inspections as well as encouraging the population to report any cases of abuse or brutality from officers that they consider groundless. Defunding therefore would not be reasonable since close control requires constant investments, specifically, in wages of supervisors, maintenance of cameras, and other.
Although the attitude towards the police in Canada generally is positive, there are objections to them. First, vulnerable categories of the population, such as ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, are probable to face prejudice, hence are less confident in law enforcement. In addition, about a quarter of Canadians consider than officers overuse force, which also can reduce trust to them. Without it, meanwhile, people become less enthusiastic about cooperating with the police; the level of crime consequently is probable to grow, compromising public safety. This determines the need for additional control over the ways in which officers interact with the population, such as eliminating prejudice and updating force use policies.
CBC News. (2020). 39% of Canadians have ‘serious problem’ with how police interact with people of colour: poll. Web.
Connaughton, A. (2020). Social trust in advanced economies is lower among young people and those with less education. Pew Research Center. Web.
Ibrahim, D. (2020). Public perceptions of the police in Canada’s provinces, 2019. Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics. Web.
Income levels and education. (n.d.). In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Web.
Kurl, Sh., & Korzinski, D. (2020). Policing in Canada: Major study reveals four mindsets driving current opinions and future policy preferences. Angus Reid Institute. Web.