What’s behind the increased violence against police officers across the country? The public’s opinion and experiences in the area of law enforcement are crucial in explaining it. To better understand police-related police brutality, many scholars have investigated the attitudes and experiences towards the police among the general public. The research reveals how the general population perceives police, the police culture, and the level of satisfaction among the population. In this article, we briefly review the most important findings on these issues among the general population and also discuss the relationship with police-related police brutality and violence against police officers.
Police are ubiquitous in modern day societies, especially in cities and metropolises. Their main function is to maintain order in society, to protect citizens against crime and violence, and to prevent social and economic exploitation. It is widely believed that police are there to regulate and maintain order, and that the public has a right to expect that they be treated appropriately. Yet, as documented in the literature, the relationship between the police and the public is more complex. On the one hand, police have a public responsibility and are generally well-intentioned (Chambers & Nolen-Hoeksema, 2005). On the other hand, many in the public may feel that police are aggressive and biased. Police officers are perceived as being ineffectual and incompetent. In addition, the police are frequently portrayed as being in the wrong, or “frowning on the poor,” and thus perceived negatively by the public.
These attitudes can be attributed to police themselves, as well as to the public’s perception of police. For example, they are often viewed as being cold, bureaucratic, and unempathetic. A large body of empirical literature has also identified many psychological factors and personality traits that affect public attitudes towards the police, in particular the police officers, such as aggressiveness, the use of force, hostility, and other emotional factors (Sutherland, 2004, 2007; Chambers & Nolen-Hoeksema, 2005; Watson & Podsakoff, 2003; Díaz, 2004). In the context of the present investigation, we focus upon three different research areas that might shed light on the relationship between police and public attitudes: the general population’s perception of police officers, a public’s perception of police culture, and police culture itself.
The public’s perceptions of the police officers
In our research, we asked the participants to indicate to what extent the following statements