Perception of police needs work, survey shows

The first in-depth survey of impressions of law and order reveals many people would hesitate to call the police if they were the victims of a crime.

An overwhelming majority of the public feel safe in the UAE and there is little personal experience of crime. But the first in-depth survey of impressions of law and order reveals many people would hesitate to call the police if they were the victims of a crime, and many expressed dissatisfaction in dealings with the judicial system.

Among those who had experienced a crime, four out of 10 chose not to involve the police - rising to more than half of westerners but including almost a third of Emiratis. While analysts urged caution in interpreting such results, they highlight a problem of perception that police throughout the UAE say they are working to improve. The online survey of 1,072 respondents, carried out for The National from February 9 to 15 by YouGov, a privately run research organisation, found that many fear they themselves could be accused of wrongdoing if they were to become involved in a police incident.

Others fear the police could be biased towards certain nationalities. To an extent, the perception of potential bias is shown to be unwarranted when set against the experiences of respondents who have had dealings with the police. Asked to evaluate the performance of the police officers who had dealt with their case across 10 categories, a majority found them polite, understanding, competent, kind, professional and fair. But more than a quarter who had dealt with them thought police were slow, lacking empathy, unprofessional, biased and even incompetent.

There are variations between nationality groups and certain perceptions. Arab expatriates consistently award police the highest marks, while westerners are the most sceptical about the abilities and willingness of the police and judicial system to help them, and generally gave them the lowest marks. A surprisingly high proportion of Emiratis who have had dealings with the police criticised them for being slow, unprofessional and incompetent, while a quarter overall doubt the authorities would do much to help them in the event of a crime. Almost as many Emiratis said they suspect the police of bias.

Maj Gen Khamis al Meziena, the deputy head of Dubai Police, urged the public to have full trust in the force. "Any person who needs to report anything should not be afraid and we will guarantee total confidentiality," he said. "Security enforcement is not a tool for oppression but is all about protection, support and providing service for the public. We provide protection to all members of the public regardless of their race, religion and nationality." For full survey results click here