Immigrants’ Confidence in the Police in 34 Countries: A Multilevel Analysis

Date01 March 2020
Published date01 March 2020
Subject MatterArticles
untitled Article
Police Quarterly
Immigrants’ Confidence
2020, Vol. 23(1) 106–137
! The Author(s) 2019
in the Police in
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DOI: 10.1177/1098611119883424
34 Countries:
A Multilevel Analysis
Sungil Han1
, EuiGab Hwang2,
Matt R. Nobles3,
Sherah L. Basham3
, and
Alex R. Piquero4,5
This study examines predictors of immigrants’ confidence in the police at the
individual and national levels, based on the instrumental and expressive frameworks.
Using the World Value Survey, the study analyzes data from 5,746 immigrants
across 34 nations. Generalized multilevel mixed-effects models are utilized to test
the effects of individual-level attributes and national-level structural indicators.
Immigrants with a citizenship of the resident nation report higher confidence in
the police. Neighborhood security, neighborhood trust, and perceived community
membership influence immigrants’ confidence in the police. The national-level
indicators, including diversity of the nation’s population and discriminatory culture,
were significantly related to confidence in the police. In a society with a variety of
nationalities and a more discriminatory culture, immigrants report more confidence
in the police. Ensuring neighborhood security and improving social capital, such as
institutional trust, are important for building confidence in the police.
1Criminology & Criminal Justice Program, The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX, USA
2Department of Police Administration, Kyonggi University, Suwon, South Korea
3Department of Criminal Justice, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA
4Criminology & Criminal Justice Program, The University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX, USA
5Criminology, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Corresponding Author:
EuiGab Hwang, Department of Police Administration, Kyonggi University, 154-42 Gwangyosan-Ro, Suwon-
City, Kyonggi-Do, South Korea.

Han et al.
immigrants, confidence in the police, international comparative
Approximately 3.4% of the global population (258 million) is composed of
immigrants who live in a country where they were not born. As global society
becomes increasingly connected, the successful settling of immigrants in a host
nation has emerged as a central focus in both academia and public policy,
especially regarding the assimilation of immigrants into the system and culture
of the host nation (Esses, Jackson, & Armstrong, 1998). As immigrants tend to
leave their home country mainly for employment, economic, and (especially)
safety reasons, one of the most salient relationships they will form is with the
laws, legal system, and formal social control agents—largely the police. Belief in
the law, legal system, and its actors are critical for a safe and just society (Tyler,
1990). Thus, police can play a pivotal role in helping immigrants adapt to their
destination country (Piatkowska, 2015).
For the police to successfully respond to the needs of immigrants, confi-
dence in the police is important because it facilitates basic interaction and
might also be a fundamental variable in controlling crime and maintaining
order for immigrant communities with unique needs (Weitzer, Tuch, &
Skogan, 2008; Wu, Sun, & Smith, 2011). Also, with high confidence and
trust in the police, immigrants may be more likely to develop greater involve-
ment in the culture of the destination nation and therefore be more willing to
participate in addressing community problems (see also President’s Task Force
on 21st Century Policing, 2015). Success in this area may help to pave the way
for an easier and ultimately more successful integration into the destination
society (Piatkowska, 2015). Thus, identifying determinants of confidence in the
police for immigrant populations may help guide police to not only improve
policing strategies specific to immigrant communities (language, culture, etc.)
but also to promote harmony in society by encouraging social interaction
between various groups.
Numerous studies have revealed factors predicting immigrants’ confidence
in the police from various perspectives. Specific focus on immigrants’ confi-
dence in the police has highlighted the roles of immigrant individual character-
istics, such as legal status (Correia, 2010), communication, or language ability
(Chu & Hung, 2010; Chu, Song, & Dombrink, 2005), and previous experiences
with police in the home nation (Chu & Hung, 2010; Correia, 2010). Still,
few studies have examined the contextual or environmental aspects of immi-
grants’ confidence in the police, and only recently has inquiry extended
into national-level comparisons of this relationship (Piatkowska, 2015;

Police Quarterly 23(1)
oder & Mu¨hlau, 2012). Similar to a general inquiry regarding public atti-
tudes toward the police across countries (Ivkovic, 2008), immigrants living in
nations with varying immigration policies, economic levels, political environ-
ments, and population compositions might systematically differ in the extent
to which they are confident in the police.
Along with a handful of recent studies on confidence in the police which
explored the influence of national-level factors (Cao, Lai, & Zhao, 2012;
Ivkovic, 2008; Jang, Joo, & Zhao, 2010; Piatkowska, 2015), this study considers
national-level as well as individual-level factors to assess various dimensions of
immigrants’ confidence in the police. In particular, this study extends the prior
literature by providing insight into immigrants’ confidence in the police across
nations in the following three respects. First, this study utilizes theoretical
frameworks that are rarely employed in other cross-national comparative stud-
ies. Both instrumental and expressive perspective factors are included in
the analysis to identify a more comprehensive explanation for immigrants’
confidence in the police across nations. In addition, variables that feature immi-
grants’ characteristics are included in the analysis in order to explore the
influence of specific predictors that are only applicable to the immigrant popu-
lation in building confidence in the police.
considered in order to identify specific influence on individual confidence in
the police, building from and also addressing limitations in the extant literature.
For example, immigrants are generally members of minority communities in
their destination countries who are considered as vulnerable to social and
economic discrimination (Piatkowska, 2015); therefore, this study anticipates
that the discriminatory attitude of the native-born population toward immi-
grants might have an impact on immigrants’ confidence in the police. As a
result, the aggregated level of discriminatory culture and the proportion of
immigrants to the population are considered in the analysis.
Lastly, this study utilizes only the immigrant population group to isolate the
effects of individual- and national-level factors on immigrants’ confidence in the
police. Such a focus on immigrants, in particular, is important because prior
research has tended to concentrate on comparing native citizens’ confidence in
the police to immigrants’ confidence in the police rather than examining attrib-
utes to confidence in the police of only the immigrant population (e.g.,
Piatkowska, 2015; R€
oder & Mu¨hlau, 2012). This study extends the current lit-
erature by selecting solely immigrants to examine the specific predictors of
immigrants’ confidence in the police.
Next, we provide an overview of research findings regarding individual-level
determinants of confidence in the police, with a specific focus on the current
knowledge about immigrants in this area, and then turn to an overview of
national-level correlates of confidence in the police.

Han et al.
Individual-Level Determinants and Confidence in the Police
Theoretical frameworks explaining confidence in the police can be divided into
two perspectives: the instrumental model and the expressive model. The instru-
mental model argues that an individual’s willingness to cooperate with law
enforcement agencies is related to evaluations of police performance
(Sunshine & Tyler, 2003). The public considers the police as a traditional
government actor of social control whose primary role is to address prevention
and response to crime, along with ancillary concerns such as fear of crime and
security in neighborhoods (Jackson, Bradford, Hohl, & Farrall, 2009; Skogan,
2009). Here, the instrumental role of police contributes systematically to polic-
ing outcomes. Thus, a poorly performing police agency is further impacted by
diminished public confidence when there is a perception of a high rate of crime
and fear of crime in the neighborhood (Sindall, Sturgis, & Jennings, 2012).
Numerous studies have identified significant relationships between localized
crime rate and residents’ confidence in the police (Bursik & Grasmick, 1993;
Reisig & Parks, 2000; Skogan & Maxfield, 1981). Similarly, studies have also
reported reduced confidence in the police after victimization (Cao, Frank, &
Cullen, 1996; Jackson et al., 2009; Myhill & Beak, 2008). Building from these
findings, several studies have attempted to extrapolate the influence of
neighborhood security and individual victimization experiences on immigrants’
confidence in the police (Chu & Hung, 2010; Chu & Song, 2008; Wu et al.,
2011). However, most studies do not indicate the influence of...

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