University of Tasmania
154723 - Policing the pandemic in Australia and New Zealand.pdf (204.35 kB)

Policing the pandemic in Australia and New Zealand: lessons for trust and legitimacy

Download (204.35 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 15:31 authored by Nicholas EvansNicholas Evans


This paper aims to assess COVID-19 as presenting both a crisis and opportunity for police trust and legitimacy by considering the role of police in delivering the legislative requirements of government and enforcing various health orders across Australia and New Zealand.


The research relies on a mixed-methods analysis of national, commonwealth, state and territory policy, corporate police reports, academic commentary and media coverage throughout the pandemic. Survey data gathered during the pandemic relevant to trust and legitimacy in police and government is also analysed.


Five findings relating to police trust and legitimacy are identified. They reveal that police mostly did seize the pandemic as an opportunity to implement practices that enhanced perceptions of trust and legitimacy. However, even where police were able to leverage COVID-19 as an opportunity, the protracted nature of the pandemic posed a challenge for maintaining trust and legitimacy gains. The findings also underscore the importance of a continued focus on building trust and legitimacy post-pandemic to counter any lingering consequences.

Research limitations/implications

The applicability of the findings outside the Australian and New Zealand context may be limited, given differences in jurisdictional legislative frameworks and policing operational environments.

Practical implications

This study identifies good community engagement practice for pandemic policing, contributes to communication strategies for managing trust decay during an emergency, forecasts ongoing trust and legitimacy challenges to policing’s post-pandemic operational environment and enhances aspects of post-pandemic recruitment approaches.


The findings contribute to emerging police practice and research on building and sustaining trust and legitimacy during periods of uncertainty and volatility, such as during and after a pandemic.


Publication title

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice




School of Social Sciences


Emerald Publishing Limited

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright (2022) Emerald Publishing Limited. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Public services policy advice and analysis; Law enforcement

Usage metrics

    University Of Tasmania


    Ref. manager