Attitudes towards policing and the judiciary in Georgia

The world has seen large protests in response to the police murder of George Floyd, including in Tbilisi. Although Georgia underwent significant police reform following the Rose Revolution, the country’s harsh criminal justice policies were also criticized under the UNM, with police killings and the country attaining the ignoble distinction of having the fourth highest prison population per capita in the world. The Georgian Dream government also undertook a number of criminal justice reforms. Still, GD too have implemented controversial policing policies and had numerous scandals. Police murders remain an issue, police drove a boy to suicide in 2019 (and 2016), and for a time police in Tbilisi were implementing a policy resembling New York’s stop and frisk (notably, the UNM also attempted to do so). The police raid of the Bassiani night club and police violence in dispersing protesters in June 2019 were also widely condemned. Clearly, Georgia continues to face challenges with rule of law and law enforcement, ranging from misuse of power in criminal cases to general policing policy and crowd control during protests. But what does the public think?
In the current global and above noted local context, it is worth taking stock of what the public think about policing in Georgia and the criminal justice system more broadly. CRRC Georgia’s data suggest that the picture is mixed, with relatively high trust in the police on the one hand, and low levels of trust in the Prosecutor’s Office and Courts on the other.
When it comes to police, the institution is among the most trusted in Georgia. The Caucasus Barometer survey in 2019 placed them as the third most trusted institution, just after religious organizations and the Army, and just above the country’s medical and educational systems. Although medical institutions have likely become the most trusted since, given the country’s strong response to the Covid-19 outbreak, this still places police among the most trusted institutions in the country. In contrast, the court system was the third least trusted, finishing just ahead of parliament and political parties.

Although the police are among the most widely trusted institutions in the country, data from Transparency International’s 2018 survey on public policy, which CRRC conducted, suggest that the public is divided over some of the more controversial policies the police have implemented. About one in five people thought it would never be justified for law enforcement officials to stop and search cars and individuals, referring to a policy wherein police were searching large numbers in Tbilisi seemingly at random. A plurality (43%) thought it is justified sometimes, and 36% thought it was always justified. More controversially, 45% thought that the police plant drugs on individuals, while 35% disagreed. On drug policy, a majority thought that people should not serve prison sentences, which are quite harsh in Georgia, for the use of light drugs or club drugs. However, people do tend to think that a person should serve a prison sentence for the use of intravenous drugs.
Although the police are widely trusted as an institution, the Prosecutor’s Office is much less positively viewed. Recent surveys CRRC conducted in partnership with IDFI and EMC suggest that only 13% of the public think the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia never abuse their power. Similarly, only 13% say that prosecutors never make deals with judges to have favourable decisions. This data should be viewed in light of the recent processes surrounding lack of transparency of appointment of Supreme Court justices, which was roundly criticized.
In recent years, Georgia has experienced numerous issues with policing. Despite this, the public still generally trust the police, while often being critical of specific policies. In contrast, fewer trust the Prosecutor’s Office or courts. 

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