A critical analysis of the Public Perception of the Nigeria Police Force

A critical analysis of the Public Perception of the Nigeria Police Force.

Nigerian Police Force is the chief law enforcement agency in the Western African country. Its staff strength is approximately 371,700 officers. Nigeria Police came into existence under Section 214 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and its mode of operations are found in the Police Act and Regulations (CAP 359).
The Police Act charges the force with the general duties of prevention and detection of crimes, the apprehension of offenders, preservation of law and order protection of life and properties and the due enforcement of all laws and orders with which they are directly charged. This research will look into the public perception of the Nigeria Police Force as they go about carrying out these duties. It endeavours to analytically evaluate the available literature on the public perception of the police force trust (Ayodele & Aderito, 2014, p. 29).
The primary focus of the research work will be the general opinion concerning the Nigeria police force. According to Tyler, (2006, cited in Murphy, 2009, p.161) “Recent studies have shown that perceptions of police process can also help explain why citizens view police in a favourable or unfavourable light”. This proposal reviews the existing scholarly work on procedural justice which will be used by the policymakers and other key stakeholders to make decisions for the betterment of the security body (Akinlabi, 2017, p. 428). Unfortunately, there has been claims of a sharp increase in the incidences of violence, crimes involving property and private citizens to which the police force has inadequately and inefficiently responded (Ayodele & Aderito, 2014, p. 43).
The research proposal will seek to critically evaluate the public opinion in the available literature works which is crucial in establishing a theoretical explanation of the general public attitude towards the law enforcers (Ayodele & Aderito, 2014, p. 37). Also, questionnaire methods will be used in data gathering which will then be analysed to provide insights into the study. Understanding the citizen’s emotional inclinations towards the police offers vital information to the decision makers within the police force and the government at large. Consequently, implementing essential lessons emanating from the study will improve public participation in preventing criminal activities resulting in better police-community relationships (Ojo, 2014, p. 92).
The research also intends to show that there is a difference of public perception concerning the Nigerian Police Force based on the gender characteristic. According to Ojo, (2014, p. 94), women are expected to portray leniency while expressing their opinions concerning the police in that they receive fairer treatment at the hands of the security forces than their male counterparts. The findings of Cheurprakobkit, (2000, cited in Brown, Benedict & Wilkinson, 2006, p. 160) supported this view that “females view the police more favourably than males”. On the other hand, the men are projected to take a radical position that will paint the police as incompetent and inefficient in their duties Correia et al. (1996, cited in Brown, Benedict & Wilkinson, 2006, p. 160).
This difference will be attributed to the contrasting ways in which the police handle members of the two genders. Secondly, the literate in Nigeria will likely to have a differing opinion as compared to the illiterate. This variance in views between the educated and the non-educated is due to lack of exposure to fundamental human rights on the part of the uneducated. Here the educated are aware of their rights as human beings, and they are likely to agitate for them whenever the police officers tend to go against them (Ayodele & Aderito, 2014, p. 44).
Lastly, based on the premises of ethnicity, there is bound to be a sharp contrast between the ethnic groups living within the West African country states. For example, an ethnic group with the most significant numbers of police personnel are most likely to describe the police force as friendlier compared to the other ethnic groups living in the same location (Akinlabi, 2017, p. 424). The sharp contrast in the ethnic-based sentiments is since the ethnic group enjoys many favours ranging from state appointments to occupying essential and sensitive offices within the force. Resultantly, most of the police officers are picked from the same ethnic group. This behaviour is likely to result in a situation whereby the dominant ethnic groups will enjoy favourable treatment like juicy postings than the minority groups.
Aim(s): The goal of this research work is:
To critically examine the public perception of the Nigeria Police Force and her application of procedural justice in policing.
Objectives:
• To explore public perception of the Nigeria Police Force through the use of a questionnaire and design a methodological framework upon which these perceptions will be analysed.
• To reflect findings on existing theories on police and procedural justice.
• To inform policymakers and practitioners the result (satisfaction or dissatisfaction) of the public with the police in the discharge of their duties.
• To analyse findings from the literature with primary research results.
Why is this research worth doing?
Conducting this research is of sheer importance in providing the nature of public perception of the Nigerian Police Force. The study is primarily geared towards improving service delivery by the police force and its sister law administrators.
The research will be useful in decision making by the policymakers, government officials and other interested parties in a bid to streamline the Nigeria police force. It will give insights into the need to have a more transparent and efficient police force which will embrace procedural justice. In return, there will be a real discernment of the police compounded by the public trust (Ayodele & Aderito, 2014, p. 32).
Since the 1970s, comprehensive public assessment of the police forces has been the norm with emphasis placed on their performance of duties bestowed on them as per the existing laws. Narrowing our scope of the study to the Nigerian Police Force, emphasis will be placed on the status of procedural justice in both national and subnational spheres (Akinlabi, 2017, p. 438). Literature work shows that when procedural justice is used on the public by the authorities, the citizens are more satisfied with the custodians of the authority (Ojo, 2014, p. 87). Consequently, the people will be more cooperative and they will respect and comply with the directives and rules being enforced. Procedural justice is a critical element in shaping the people perceptions on the legitimacy of the police force, their contentment with the police and their ability to cooperate with the police force.
In contrast, according to Johnson, Johnson & Tolu, (2013, p. 55), the Nigeria police force has lost public confidence mainly due to the diminishing potency of the forces ability to carry out law enforcement duties. In Nigeria, there has been a universal outcry on the favouritism practised by the police with the police officers showing open bias against the less opulent in the society. Resultantly, the citizens show resentment toward the police force in that state. Similarly, Alemika & Chukwuma (2000, cited in Adebayo, D.O. 2005, p.687), “this historical origin of the Nigeria police as an instrument of coercion and oppression gave birth to the age-long hatred and negative stigma of the police by the public that has remained indelible”. This research is well-timed in that it will come up with ways that will ensure the public perception of the police force improves by restoring trust in the citizens.
Previous works
Numerous research has been done focusing on how the public perceives the police force. People evaluate the police force based on the tactics taken by the force, the police administration forces and the information technology based on how the crimes are prevented (Akinlabi, 2017, p. 198). The police administrators use the information from the public and their attitudes to manage and improve the public involvement in the crime control and prevention programs across the whole Nigeria (Tankebe, 2013, p.98).
The characters and functions of police in Nigeria are based on the police force function as the organisation mandated to oversee changes of public security and also acts as the government agency. The police have the rights and powers of the government to provide covers in public places like markets, roads, private dwellings, public institutions like schools and other government institutions (Tankebe 2013, p.102). Most public encounters with the police are deemed to be violent and humiliating hence creating a negative image between the two parties. The use of verbal violence, physical punishments and brutality from the police force is among the factors that the public considers when perceiving their relationships with the police (Akinlabi, 2017, p.198).
A study conducted first focused on the history of Nigeria police force. The first police force to be established in Nigeria was in 1861 by the British colonisers who used violence, foul means and physical tortures on the public (Johnson, Johnson & Tolu, 2013 p.58). The force was merged in 1914 and made a political entity –the colonial Nigeria State. Later on, more forces were formed to maintain and control law and order within various nationalities under the British Colonial rule. At that time, there were two forces one controlled by the British government and the other local force controlled by the surrogates. In the year 1930, the Northern and Southern forces were joint into the current Nigeria Police Force (Lee 2016).
Police Public Image and Crime Prevention
The citizens of Nigeria have come up with various critics and perceptions towards the police based on their daily encounters with them. Some see them as unfriendly with the tendency to unleash terror onto the public (Ayodele & Aderinto 2014, p. 46). Many research shows the failure of the police force in disseminating their duties as outlined in the force’s missions and visions. The community and public, in general, have demonstrated a strained relationship with the police in their course of duty (Ayodele & Aderinto 2014, p. 46). Among the claims from the people are the widespread bullies and abuses from police, over-use of their legitimate power, bad tempers, unfairness when dealing with criminals and suspects, materialism, greed and corruption. The human rights activists are in the forefront to see changes in the functions and administration (Tankebe, 2013, p.118).
Factors that influence publics’ perception towards the police
The attitudes and perceptions of publics towards police are brought about by factors like sex, education level, demographic location and government involvements. (Maguire & Pastore, 2014, p. 23) Argues that the feelings publics have towards the police depends on the crime rates of a particular region. Most urban in Nigeria have high crime rates thus high public-police encounters. During the direct meets, perceptions are raised based on the happenings. According to Kellings & Cole, (1996, p.345), most attitudes and beliefs about the police are as a result of adverse and positives encounters which calls for corrections and behaviour changes. Again, the citizens who connect with the forces through calling or visiting their stations tend to be more contented with their services offered than publics who are involuntary targets in crime scenes or traffics stop (Decker, 1981, p.49).
The apparent value of treatment by the Nigeria police force determines the public’s satisfaction and the overall evaluation of the Nigeria Police Force. When the people come across the police whom they consider to be unfair, unconcerned, rude and unprofessional, they tend to hold a negative attitude, (Rosenbaum, 2005, p. 359). On the other hand, those who get favoured by the police will perceive them more positively. Again, the public’s view of exploitation varies as a purpose of situations possibilities like the level of opposition by the suspects at the crime scene.
Community policing is one of the best strategies employed to improve quality of public-police encounters and to restructure the forces organisation to ensure quality service and good relations with the public. However, this measure according to Alemika and Chukwuma (2000) failed “the citizens’ involvement in policing, which encompasses reporting crimes in progress, giving witness statements, assisting police in solving crimes and so on, is ineffective as a result of the communication gap existing between the police and the public.”
Theories
The process-based model of policing
The model looks at the legitimacy and maintenance of the police force (Huntingdon, 1993; 46). It is attached to the works of Max Weber who framed the social-scientific inquiry of legitimacy. According to Weber, legitimacy authority is based on rational, traditional and charismatic. Beetham (1991) argues that legitimacy should centre at maintaining the legality of the legal validity of power and how the power is working out in the society. Extent process-based model focuses on antecedents of police legality and their effects on public’s behaviour (Sargeant, Murphy & Cherney, 2014, p. 517).
The model relies on publics subjective beliefs on the rightness of the police. According to Tyler (1990), the police legitimacy is depending on the instrumental and normative perspective. The instrumental perspective asserts that the police are legitimate thus effective in fighting crimes and preventing disorders. It is built on fairness whereby the police act as decision makers and exercise authority. Here, the dimension of interpersonal treatment deals with the public perceptions that the police treat them fairly and in a polite manner. They also hold dignity; respect human rights thus earn much public cooperation when dealing with crimes (Tyler 2003 p.67).
Sunshine & Tyler (2003) researched the legitimacy of the police force in maintaining law and order. The found out that the public’s willingness to cooperate with the police is as a result of the legitimacy. Test on this model conducted in Australia reveals that procedural justice is the principal precursor of forces legality and it increases the public’s participation with the police (Sargeant t al., 2014, p. 514).
Social stratification theory
This theory has been used by many researchers to determine the public’s view of the police. Blumer (1958) and Wu et al., 2009 proposed that the public’s responses towards the police force be based on their ages, sex, race and the social class. A society that has high economic inequalities fosters conflicts and public-police violence (Jacob 1979). Public raise their confidence and trust in the police force based on person’s position in the social stratification. Elites are viewed to possess higher confidence in the police with the lower having low confidence (Lee, 2016).
Based on this theory, confidence in the police force is concomitant with the form of government. Trust and public perception of the police force are linked with the level of democracy of a nation. Countries with long-term stable democracy have high police confidence compared to those with low democracy like Nigeria.
Design and Methods
In researching on public perception of Nigerian Police Force, qualitative data will be collected through mixed-methods methodology. Qualitative procedures such as focus groups, questionnaire and observation will be used. These techniques were developed to aid in the study of multifaceted behaviours and cultures. Moreover, they are employed in studies on areas where there is scant knowledge. Thus this method will be critical in the research on the public opinion on the Nigerian Police Force.
To collect and gather data on perception of Nigerian citizens concerning policing efficiently, the closed questionnaire will be utilised (Ojo, 2014, p. 90). Among the numerous strengths of using questionnaire method in data collection is that the process presents the researchers with an opportunity to view the world from perspectives that are different from their own. Secondly, they enable the researcher to comprehend the various ways in which the stakeholders in a public situation describe their surroundings and the people living in that area (Akinlabi, 2017, p. 426). Moreover, closed questionnaires give room for voluntary dialogue between the researcher and the target group. Lastly, regarding money and time, the questionnaire is an efficient method as they are not capital intensive (Johnson, Johnson & Tolu, 2013, p. 49).
Data collected will be thematically analysed through the application of a simple coding technique on the responses of the questionnaires. The primary goal of this process will be to ascertain the differing perceptions on the police force and their impacts to the lives of the ordinary citizens (Johnson, Johnson & Tolu, 2013, p. 51). Also, it will endeavour to highlight the significant areas the Nigerian Police Force and its policymakers will emphasise on in their effort to bring reforms in the force. Also, secondary data will be used to demonstrate the level of professionalism across the entire police force (Ojo, 2014, p. 96).
Ethics
This research will abide by the ethical guidelines outlined by the British Society of Criminology’s Code of Ethics for Researchers to ensure the research is maintained at a standard level. Adequate majors will be taken to ensure the researcher’s responsibility towards the participants based on the means of acquiring information (British Society of Criminology, 2015, p.9). Again, the researchers follow a code of practice drawn in the person’s academic institution, funding body and ESRC. The participation ought to be voluntary with minimal risks of psychological harm. Again the design research is structured in a way that the dignity and autonomy of the participants are preserved and respected as stated in the Data Protection Act 1998 ( Robson, 2002, p.70).
Researchers must promote the spread of knowledge as a way of protecting the professional and intellectual freedom. British Psychological Society requires the researchers to protect the rights of the targeted study groups, their interests, privacy and sensitivities. Again, social factors like status, power, and age are put into consideration as required by the UK Research Integrity Office. Potential ethical dilemmas that one can encounter during the research should be considered Robson (2002, p.71).
Resources and Costs
In the course of undertaking this research proposal, material resources will be utilised. For example, a personal computer, internet and literature material like journals, academic books, and articles. Also, websites and web pages rich in relevant information will be consulted. In analysing data, SPSS Statistics software will be used.
The costs to be incurred while preparing this proposal included time spent planning, researching and writing the paper. Monetary expenses to be involved in this research will be majorly travelling to serve the questionnaire to responders, printing and binding the research work. The estimated totals will be approximately £60.

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