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All cops are trusted? How context and time shape immigrantsí trust in the police in Europe


Christian S. Czymara ORCID Icon & Jeffrey Mitchell ORCID Icon

Received 08 Oct 2021, Accepted 11 Mar 2022, Published online: 19 Apr 2022



The relationship between police and ethnic minorities has been the subject of increasing interest in many Western societies in recent years. We examine first-generation immigrants’ trust in the police in Europe from a comparative and longitudinal perspective. Based on roughly 20,000 immigrants observed in 22 countries over 13 years in the European Social Survey, results show that initially high levels of trust in the police among immigrants tend to erode with the length of their stay in the host country. We show that two simultaneous processes drive this pattern: a fading reference effect (downward assimilation) and an increasing discrimination effect. Cross-national comparisons show that, on average, immigrants in countries with more police trust the police less. However, there is no effect of police size within countries, mostly because police numbers hardly change over time. We discuss implications for future research and policy development based on our findings.