Public Perceptions of Police in Fiji

Published date01 August 2022
Date01 August 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(3) 295 –310
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862221096942
Public Perceptions of Police
in Fiji
Anand Chand1, Maureen Fatiaki Karan1,
and Pariniappa Goundar1
Members of the public may have positive, negative, or mixed perceptions of
police. Previous research has demonstrated that public perceptions are shaped by
their experiences and interactions with police and can influence trust, perceived
legitimacy, and future cooperation. Limited research has examined public
perceptions of police in small island developing states. This article explores public
perceptions of police in Fiji, an island state in the Pacific region. This study employed
a mixed-method approach based on qualitative interviews (n = 21) and quantitative
surveys (n = 150). The findings show that only a minority of the participants had a
favorable view of police, while the majority had a negative perception. The results
reveal that police corruption and brutality are two significant concerns of the
public that the Fiji Police Force will need to address to gain public respect, trust,
confidence, and legitimacy.
police, public perception, trust, legitimacy, police brutality
Public1 perceptions of the police depend on the historical police–community relations
and people’s experience and treatment by police (Brogden, 1987, 2005; Jauregui,
2013). On the one hand, the public’s positive perceptions of the police play an essen-
tial role in gaining legitimacy, trust, support, and public willingness to cooperate with
the police (Howes et al., 2021; Jauregui, 2013; Watson, Boateng, & Miles-Johnson,
2021). On the contrary, a negative image of police contributes to people’s distrust and
1The University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji
Corresponding Author:
Anand Chand, The University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji.
1096942CCJXXX10.1177/10439862221096942Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeQuestionChand et al.
296 Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 38(3)
lack of willingness to cooperate with the police (Nair et al., 2012). In the last two
decades, increased public expectations have placed pressure on the police to be more
efficient, effective, accountable, and transparent (Morris, 2015; Nalla & Newman,
2013). There are some key themes commonly discussed in the literature. They are: (a)
people’s experience when interacting with police, (b) police response time, (c) feed-
back by police on people’s complaints, (d) customer service, (e) police brutality, (f)
police corruption, (g) trust in police, (h) procedural justice, and (i) police legitimacy.
There is abundant literature on public perceptions of police in large developed and
developing countries (Ajayi & Longe, 2015; Awan et al., 2019; Boateng, 2012; Dai et
al., 2019; Gau, 2010; Jiang et al., 2012; Lum et al., 2021; Wu, 2009). However, there
is scant literature on public perceptions of police in the context of Small Island
Developing States (SIDS) and particularly in the Pacific Island Countries (PICs; Bull
et al., 2021; Dinnen, 2019; Dinnen & Watson, 2021; Howes et al., 2021; McLeod,
2009; McLeod & Dinnen, 2007; Watson & Dinnen, 2020; Watson, Amin, & Pino,
2021; Watson, Boateng, & Miles-Johnson, 2021, Watson, Sousa-Santos, & Howes,
2021; Watson & Johnson, 2020). In the context of Fiji, only one study 25 years ago by
Plange (1996) empirically investigated people’s perceptions of policing in Fiji; how-
ever, its findings are no longer relevant for the current period. Hence, there is a research
gap in the body of knowledge. The study addresses the research question and contrib-
utes some knowledge on Fijians view of police in Fiji.
Theoretical Framework
The policing model of Fiji is underpinned by Robert Peel’s (1829) principles of policing.
Peel (1829) developed nine principles of professional policing, and two of his principles
forbid police to use excessive force to achieve procedural justice2 and police legitimacy
(Heaton & Tong, 2017; Loader, 2016; Murphy, 2009; Peel, 1829). Peel (1829) argued
that if people perceive police have treated them fairly, they are more likely to trust and
respect them (Heaton & Tong, 2017; Johnson et al., 2014). The Peelian (1929) model of
policing was adopted in Fiji by respective Commissioners of Police since colonial days
(the 1930s–1970s) and postindependence (1970–present) alongside the paramilitary
policing approach after the 1987 military coup (S. B. Brown, 1998, Interview with Nair
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Police Head Quarters, Suva, Fiji, January 2022). Most
of the Commissioners of Police and senior police executives have attended police train-
ing courses in the United Kingdom (at the Police Staff College in Bramshil), Australia
and New Zealand (for relevant courses), and in the United States/Hawaii for cybercrime
courses. (Interview with Nair Deputy Commissioner of Police, Police Head Quarters,
Suva, Fiji, January 2022).
Historical Colonial Background of Fiji and Police Force
To understand policing in any country, we must look at the broader historical develop-
ment of a country and the colonial dimension of policing (Brogden, 1987). Policing

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