Foster relationship of police and public

Public perception of police has tended towards fear rather than trust. The Dubai Police department's drive to promote a culture of civility could change this.

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An online survey carried out in February 2010 for The National by the research organisation YouGov found that many UAE residents avoided reporting incidents to the police because they feared that they could themselves be accused of wrongdoing. From traffic accidents to assault cases, it was a concern that cropped up time and again.

The issue of trust is one that Dubai Police has been working to improve for some time. On Thursday, the emirate's police chief again urged his officers to deal with the general public in the spirit of civility and graciousness.

"There is no place for insolence or arrogance here and we have to act in a kind and humane manner," Lt General Dahi Khalfan Tamim told police officers. "A security figure is either hated or loved by the public - all of you should aim for the latter."

It is encouraging that law enforcement officials so publicly recognise the need for public outreach by the police force - not to mention acknowledge, as Gen Tamim did, that authorities' abuse of power in other countries contributed to public discontent. A civil, polite police force is simply a better guarantor of social stability.

By encouraging a good relationship with the public, the police have an ally in their work. It benefits the entire society - not just the victim - when members of the public feel confident enough to report wrongdoing. It makes the job of policing easier.

In recent years, Dubai Police has attracted international praise for investigations into high-profile crimes committed on UAE soil. There is little doubt that investigative capabilities have greatly improved. Now Gen Tamim has indicated that the same level of professionalism should be applied to community relations.

There is still work to be done. A majority in last year's survey praised officers for being polite, understanding, competent, kind, professional and fair - but a quarter of respondents complained that police were slow, lacking empathy, biased or even incompetent. In the relationship with the public, just the perception of unprofessionalism is harmful.

Across the Emirates, there has been a movement towards community policing and outreach. Gen Tamim has restated Dubai's goals; it is a standard that the police need to uphold.