It is suggested that when police are perceived to be legitimate, and effective, community residents may be more willing to intervene in local problems and communities will be collectively efficacious. Policing strategies may also play a part: community policing strategies are expected to have a positive impact on collective efficacy whereas police enforcement strategies may have a negative effect. This dissertation examines the relationship between perceptions of police and collective efficacy using a mixed methods approach. I find trust in police and perceptions of police enforcement strategies are the key policing variables that explain variations in collective efficacy across communities.
This dissertation examines the relationship between perceptions of police and collective efficacy using a mixed methods research design. This design involves two interconnected research studies: Study 1 is qualitative and Study 2 is quantitative. As prior research rarely considers the relationship between perceptions of police and collective efficacy, Study 1 is exploratory. Through qualitative interviews with residents and key informants in two purposively selected communities in Brisbane, Australia, I investigate the parameters of the policing-collective efficacy relationship. Accounts of participants indicate policing strategies and perceptions of police legitimacy and effectiveness, are useful to consider when determining the correlates of collective efficacy. I also find police enforcement strategies may lead to negative perceptions of police, and are detrimental to the willingness of community residents to intervene in community problems. Alternatively, community policing strategies may be useful only insofar as they empower citizens to intervene. Lastly, what the police do in communities and how they are perceived is not as crucial to collective efficacy as structural characteristics, particularly structural disadvantage. As long as communities experience disadvantage they may feel disempowered to access formal controls or to intervene informally.
The findings of Study 1 lead me to construct eight hypotheses about the contours of the relationship between perceptions of police and collective efficacy. These hypotheses are tested in Study 2. Utilising survey data collected from 4,167 residents of 148 communities and crime and census statistics, I examine the relationship between police legitimacy, police effectiveness, policing strategies and collective efficacy. Corroborating findings from Study 1, trust in police and perceptions of police enforcement strategies are the key policing variables that explain variations in collective efficacy across communities. I conclude that, while structural disadvantage is central to community capacity, police may have a positive influence on collective efficacy by improving trust in police and working with the community to empower residents to deal with community problems. I suggest Third-Party Policing and community policing strategies may be employed to increase trust in police and police-community collaboration, and reduce the negative connotations of police-led regulation.