Late last month, video surfaced of a man in South Africa being dragged behind a police van, sparking an outcry about the state of the country’s police force. In an email interview, Andrew Faull, a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Criminology who has written extensively on public policing in South Africa, explained how South Africans view the country’s police, and the police force’s evolution since the apartheid era.
WPR: How are South Africa's police regarded in terms of their efficacy and accountability?
Andrew Faull: Data on perceptions of police in South Africa appear at times contradictory and counterintuitive. A 2012 Afrobarometer survey exploring perceptions of government found only 49 percent of respondents trusted the police. While this was the highest figure since the question was first asked in 2000, the same was true for perceptions of corruption: 52 percent of respondents believed “almost all” or “most” police were corrupt. Yet in a 2011 national victim survey, 64.6 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the police in their area. Data suggest perceptions of police improve following personal interaction with them. Research on police legitimacy has suggested South Africans want both fairer and more effective policing.