By Benjamin Roberts and Steven Gordon, Human Sciences Research Council
First published on The Conversation: Africa
The legitimacy of legal authorities is recognised globally as crucial for the state’s ability to function in a justifiable and effective manner. This applies, in particular, to the police. Recently, South Africa’s Defence Minister Thandi Modise lamented the low level of public trust in law enforcement agencies in the country.
In particular, the minister, who also heads the country’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, drew attention to a persisting legitimacy problem in the relationship between the police and the public.
To provide further context to the extent and nature of this challenge, we examine representative survey data on trends in police confidence since the late 1990s. The data shows that public trust in the police has been low throughout most of the democratic period. Between 2020 and 2021, however, there was significant drop in the level of trust ordinary people had in the police.
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