A new poll by Sky News has found that many Britons feel that the police cover up any wrongdoing on the part of officers.
The Metropolitan Police Force has recently been hit by several controversial incidents, including the shooting of Mark Duggan which sparked the 2011 London riots – and the admission by a police officer that he lied about former Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell swearing at police and calling them plebs.
In relation to the “Plebgate” affair, 51% of those questioned said they trusted the police less as a result, while 43% said the controversy had made no difference to their trust in the police.
Overall, however, the Sky News poll found that 53% of those questioned for the poll felt the police covered up wrongdoing – while just 18% felt officers were honest about mistakes they made.
The poll was commissioned as part of a series of reports under the heading “A Fair Cop?” The research found that, despite police controversies, the level of public trust in the police has remained stable, with 62% of respondents saying their trust in the police had stayed the same and 31% feeling it had fallen.
The poll found that 72% of those questioned would have faith that the police would act if they reported a crime – and 67% would trust police officers to handle correctly any crime they reported as a victim.
Many respondents also supported the police “stop and search” policy – 60% of those questioned said the practice did more good than harm. However, some groups say police stop and search is unfairly aimed at ethnic minorities and 60% of those questioned said racial profiling should not be the basis for stop and search.
Another recent scandal which has hit the police is evidence that statements which suggested police failings in the Hillsborough football stadium disaster of 1989 were removed from police statements.
The Hillsborough disaster in April 1989 claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool FC fans, when a stand at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield became overcrowded. Thousands of fans waiting outside the ground when the match started were allowed in by the police to ease the pressure of the crowd, pushing others at the front of the stand against the safety fences. It was more than five minutes before anyone noticed what was happening, however, and the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest was stopped.
The Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe was formerly Merseyside Police’s Chief Constable and denies he did anything wrong regarding the Hillsborough inquiry.
It is alleged families of those who died and campaign supporters seeking justice for the victims were put under surveillance by the police, including phone tapping. The allegations have neither been admitted nor denied by the police.
However, among people questioned for the Sky News poll, 49% said that controversy over the Hillsborough police reports has made no difference to their faith in the police – while 44% of respondents claimed their trust in the police had fallen.
The Mark Duggan case has not had a huge impact on police trust, the poll found – among those questioned, 61% said the case had not affected their faith in the police, while only 21% claimed that it had.
However, among respondents who described their ethnicity as “non white”, 40% said they had lost trust in the police following the Mark Duggan shooting and subsequent inquiry. The case and inquiry had been positive for some of those questioned, however, with 15% saying they trusted the police more as a result of the inquiry.
The jury at the inquest into Mark Duggan’s shooting found that he had been lawfully killed by the police. Mr Duggan’s family and supporters have vowed to fight for justice following the verdict – they claim police shot Mr Duggan while he was unarmed.
The poll by Survation questioned 1,005 people this week.
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