During the latter half of the 20 century American policing became more professional (Skogan & Frydl, 2004) and the rate of violent crime declined dramatically (Blumstein & Wallman, 2000). Yet public trust and confidence in the police increased at best marginally and there has been a large and continuing racial gap in police legitimacy. This article reviews changes in police policy and practice to explore the reasons for this seeming paradox. It is argued that a new model of proactive police stops has increased both the frequency of and the range of police contact with people in the community. Such police contact need not inherently undermine public trust in the police, but the style of such contact, through which the police communicate suspicion of ongoing or future criminal contact and seek to prevent it via the threat or use of coercion has not increased trust. This paper examines how such policies developed and why they are problematic. The result of a survey of Americans shows that perceived suspicion damages the social bonds between the police and the community and undermines trust in the police. It concludes by arguing that police contact need not be inherently negative and contact in which the police in which they use fair procedures can addresses issues of crime and disorder while building trust and confidence.
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