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Differentiating confidence in the police, trust in the police, and satisfaction with the police

Liqun Cao (Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Oshawa, Canada)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 18 May 2015




The purpose of this paper is to differentiate clearly between three frequently used concepts found in the research literature on public perceptions of the police: confidence in the police, satisfaction with the police and trust in the police.


Systemic literature review and thematic analysis are employed to assess each key term in the official English language dictionary and in the research literature. Their individual origins, their evolvement and their current usages are examined with great care.


The findings of the study suggest that the three phrases are indeed distinct in their connotation. It is concluded that “confidence in the police” is the preferred choice when we survey the citizenry about the level of support for the police and when the police is evaluated as a political institution.

Practical implications

Given that most criminologists believe that we are doing scientific research, it is our duty to be attentive to the pitfalls of lack of conceptual clarity.


The essay advances the conceptual clarification of one of the popular themes in the study of the police.



The author indebted to Francis T. Cullen for his comments on the earlier draft and to Nicholas Lovrich for his editing of the final version.


Cao, L. (2015), "Differentiating confidence in the police, trust in the police, and satisfaction with the police", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 239-249.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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