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Key findings
  • Three-fourths of Tanzanians say they “never” felt unsafe while walking in their neighbourhood (75%) or feared crime in their home (74%) during the previous year, while 25% and 26%, respectively, report experiencing these forms of insecurity at least once during the previous year.
  • About one in 10 citizens (9%) say they requested police assistance during the previous year, while 24% say they encountered the police in other situations, such as at checkpoints, during identity checks or traffic stops, or during an investigation.
  • Almost three in 10 Tanzanians (28%) say that “most” or “all” police are corrupt – one of the best ratings across 34 African countries surveyed in 2021/2022, but still the worst among 11 Tanzanian institutions and leaders the survey asked about.
  • But eight in 10 respondents (79%) say they trust the police, including 46% who trust them “a lot.”
  • Even so, significant proportions of the population say the police “often” or “always” use excessive force with suspected criminals (42%) and protesters (28%), stop drivers without good reason (37%), and engage in criminal activities (11%).

In her two years as Tanzania’s president, Samia Suluhu Hassan has made no secret of her intention to reform the country’s police force. Citing corruption, use of excessive force, and offensive language as common police failings, last July she announced the creation of a committee to assess the performance of criminal justice forces, including the police (Mosenda, 2022).

While Tanzania’s state institutions – including the police – consistently rank among the least corrupt in Afrobarometer surveys (Keulder, 2021), the 2020 National Governance and Corruption Survey rated the Tanzania Police Force as the most corrupt and one of the least effective public institutions in the country (Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau, 2020), despite attempts at reform such as community policing and the modernisation of police equipment (Mount, 2014).

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 (2021/2023) questionnaire to explore Africans’ experiences and assessments of police professionalism.

In Tanzania, most citizens say they felt safe in their neighbourhoods and homes, though the share who report feeling unsafe has increased since 2021, with poor citizens and urban residents more likely to experience insecurity than rural and better-off citizens.

Among those who requested police assistance, more than a quarter say they had to pay a bribe – the same proportion who report having to pay a bribe in other types of police encounters. And although perceptions of corruption among public institutions have shown improvement, the police are more widely seen as corrupt than other key state institutions.

Majorities say the police at least sometimes use excessive force with protesters and criminal suspects and stop drivers without good reason, and fewer than half say the police usually operate in a professional manner and respect all citizens’ rights.

Even so, most Tanzanians say they trust the police and approve of the government’s performance in fighting crime.

Kelechi Amakoh

Data analyst for Afrobarometer and a PhD student in the Department of Political Science, Michigan State University.

Derick Msafiri

Derick Msafiri is an intern for REPOA, the Afrobarometer national <br /> partner in Tanzania.