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Apartheid and post-apartheid analysis of public confidence in the police


Published online on


Policing: An International Journal, Volume 41, Issue 6, Page 766-781, December 2018.
Purpose Given the tumultuous history of policing in South Africa, the historic relationship between the police and the public, and the continuous rising crime rates, it is perplexing that little quantitative research has been conducted on legitimacy and the SAPS. The current study assesses public confidence in police in South Africa by analyzing data from a more than three-decade-old public opinion survey. The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to examine changes in public confidence since 1981; and second, to determine factors that cause variations in confidence during a given period. Design/methodology/approach To achieve the objectives, the authors analyzed longitudinal data collected from 1981 to 2014 as part of the world Value Survey program. ANOVA and multivariate regression analyses were conducted. Findings Findings indicate that confidence in SAPS was highest during the period immediately after apartheid and then dwindled from 1999 onwards. Moreover, race, happiness and education have historically influenced public confidence in the police. Originality/value These findings provide information that could be useful for transforming the SAPS, especially in developing viable strategies to strengthen the police’s relationship with citizens. Additionally, the manuscript provides an original contribution to the study of public attitudes toward the police and police legitimacy, especially in a non-western society.