In addition to instilling a sense of security, the police in post-conflict settings are faced with the challenge of increasing trust between themselves and local communities. The existence of prevalent security threats may trigger the police (and the state in general) to adopt heavy-handed strategies that bringing about fear and resentment towards the police at local levels, rather than instilling long-term security. This is referred to as the security-trust challenge. Read more here.

Criminologists Dirikx, Gelders and Parmentier (2012) distinguish between two types of trust that communities may have towards their police forces: trust in police effectiveness, and trust in police fairness.

  • Trust in police effectiveness: police are trusted based upon their ability to control crime. Are neighbourhoods safe? Are crime rates low? (This is also referred to as the performance-based perspective).
  • Trust in police fairness: police are trusted by fairness within their operations. Do they provide services to all communities regardless of background? (This is specifically known as the distributive justice perspective). Do they demonstrate fairness in how authority is exercised, and decisions are made? (Specifically known as the procedural justice perspective)

Community Oriented Policing (COP) initiatives that deliberately focus on building mutual trust between local communities and the police hold promise in dealing with the security-trust challenge. ICT4COP research has shown that factors characterizing a trust-based relationship will vary from one context to another. Read more here. Local COP initiatives need to be based on an in-depth understanding of the history of conflict and abuse at the hands of the police – including the ways in which this has shaped current state/police-citizen relationships. Everyone engaged in promoting COP, should learn about the “mechanisms” in society that actually build trust at local levels.

For example, in Afghanistan COP efforts building on existing local initiatives such as the chowkidari (watchmen) and the shura system represent useful ways to strengthen trust-based community-police relationships. Read more here. Moreover, collaboration with local civil society actors that are familiar with local communities and their concerns may represent important allies in nurturing and demonstrating trust at local levels, and help to strengthen the relations between the police and local communities. Read more here. Research also shows that information and communication technologies (ICT) may have a potential to increase trust between police and communities where direct face-to-face interaction currently is lacking. Efforts to build online relationships with the citizens can provide basis for improving offline police community interactions. Similarly, the actions taken by police management against complaints registered through ICT tools could be instrumental in building trust and gaining respect in community. You can read more here.