UK

Police Trusted By Only Half Of Brits Following 'Plebgate' And Mark Duggan Cases

17/01/2014 08:43 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

A series of high-profile blunders has left more than a quarter of Britons not trusting the police, a new poll has revealed.

Half of those surveyed said they still have faith in officers, according the ComRes survey for ITV but, in response to the statement "I trust the police", 26% said they disagreed, while 50% agreed.

The findings come in the wake of a series of public controversies involving the police in recent months, including claims officers lied over the 'Plebgate' affair, and anger over the shooting dead and subsequent inquest of suspected gangster Mark Duggan.

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Half of the British public has said they trust the police

A jury found earlier this month that Duggan was lawfully killed when he was shot dead by armed officers in Tottenham, north London, in August 2011, sparking riots across England.

But his family claimed he had been "executed" by officers and have criticised the jury's verdict as "perverse" because they had also concluded he did not have a gun when he was shot.

The Tory MP at the centre of the "Plebgate" row Andrew Mitchell said a Royal Commission could be needed to examine how to restore trust in the police.

"We need to make sure that the police are honest and we need to make sure that the citizen is safe," the former chief whip told LBC Radio 97.3.

"Both those two things, I think, go hand in hand.

"It may well be that we should have a Royal Commission but I think we need mechanisms for reform to restore trust in the police and I think the police want to see that as well."

Among required changes were a "massive increase in the reach and ability" of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) including enhanced resources, staff and powers, he said, and the use of cameras on officers' lapels to record exchanges.

Mitchell expressed concerns that a police officer's guilty plea to lying about the incident means it will never be known if anyone else was involved.

Pc Keith Wallis last week admitted a charge of misconduct in public office, having been charged after sending an email to Conservative deputy chief whip John Randall, who was his MP, wrongly claiming that he had seen what happened.

Mitchell admits swearing during a heated exchange with officers who said he could not ride his bicycle through the main gates but denies calling them "plebs".

The poll of 2,079 people found that most Britons (57%) want to see police guidelines tightened in the wake of the shooting so officers can only use deadly force if they have personally seen the suspect hold a weapon.

Just a quarter of those polled (24%) disagreed.

It also revealed a widespread belief that police have become more forceful, with 40% reporting that they believe officers are quicker to resort to force on suspected criminals than they were ten years ago.

Less than a third (29%) said they disagreed with this statement.

Yet the nation appears to hold mixed views over whether more forceful policing should be embraced.

A third of those surveyed said officers are too quick to use force on suspects, whereas nearly half (43%) disagreed with this statement.

And while controversy continues to rage over claims police unfairly using their 'stop and search' powers on ethnic minorities, just 31% of the British public think these groups are unfairly targeted.

However, opinions are heavily divided along race lines.

The majority (57%) of Britons from black or minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds think these groups are unfairly targeted, whereas just half as many white Britons (28%) agree.

The British public is also deeply divided over whether they think it is right for police to target their criminal investigations on certain ethnic minorities because they are statistically more likely to commit a type of crime.

A sizeable proportion of the public (40%) agree that officers should be allowed to do this, while almost exactly the same proportion (41%) said they opposed the policy.

But again race heavily influences how people view this question.

Nearly two thirds (62%) of those from BME backgrounds disagree with the policy, whereas just 39% of white Britons are against it.

A separate poll for Sky News found that more than half of Britons believe there is a culture of cover-ups within the police.

Some 53% of people questioned felt that forces try to hide officers' wrongdoings, while just 18% disagreed that cover-ups take place.

Yet the poll, conducted by Survation on 1,005 people this week, found a large majority of the public still trust the police.

More than six in 10 (62%) said their trust in the police had remained the same over the last five years, while less than a third (31%) said it had gone down.

Some 72% would trust police to act if they reported a crime, and 67% would trust officers to deal with them if they were the victim of a crime.

A further 61% said the Mark Duggan case had not blemished their trust in the police, while 44% of those questioned in relation to the conduct of officers over Hillsborough said they trust police less.

And 51% said the so-called "plebgate" affair, which cost former chief whip Andrew Mitchell his job, caused them to have less trust in police, with 43% saying it made no difference.

While 60% felt that police "stop and search" tactics did more good than harm, the same number said they believed police should not use people's ethnic background as a means of deciding who to stop.