The lowest levels of public satisfaction come when the police are dealing with reports of noise or disturbance and of crimes; 41 per cent of people across all ethnic backgrounds feel that the police 'didn't do enough' when asked for assistance.
But the survey, based on quarterly polls conducted by Gallup for the Home Office Research and Planning Unit during 1991-92, shows that around three-quarters of the population feel that the police do a good or fairly good job; 20 to 25 per cent say the police do a 'very good job'. When the figures are broken down into ethnic backgrounds, 76 per cent of white people feel the police do a fairly, or very, good job, compared with 62 per cent of Asians and 52 per cent Afro-Caribbeans. One-quarter of all ethnic minority respondents felt the police did a fairly, or very, poor job, compared with only 15 per cent of white respondents.
The main reasons for satisfaction with the police were a polite and pleasant manner, prompt arrival, professionalism and taking the problems of the public seriously. Reasons for dissatisfaction included being kept waiting and not being informed.
Asians were the least likely ethnic group to be contacted by the police, recording only 15 per cent of the sample, compared with 22 per cent of whites and 25 per cent of Afro-Caribbeans. The most common police-initiated contact was by vehicle check, accounting for more than one contact in five; Afro-Caribbeans reported that 45 per cent of their contacts came from such encounters compared with 25 per cent for whites and 27 per cent for Asians.
The survey showed that nearly 50 per cent of the sample had experienced some kind of contact with police over the previous year.
Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, told senior police commanders yesterday that quality of service was not a soft option, but recognition that the public had to be treated fairly and sensitively.
Mr Clarke said that there was no room for complacency because only three-quarters of the public believed the police to be doing a good job.
He told a conference on quality of service, organised by the Association of Chief Police Officers at the Police Staff College, Bramshill, Hampshire: 'Quality of service must not be just an empty slogan or catchword . . . quality of service has to be seen as a longstanding and sustained commitment to improve performance in ways that can be noticed by the public and be welcomed by those who come into contact with the police.
'There is a tendency for some people to caricature quality of service as being all about 'courtesy' or 'smartness' or 'policing with a smile'. You and I know that quality of service is about much more than image or other superficial characteristics. If the service does not come up to the mark, image counts for nothing. The public is not so easily fooled.'
He said the things people wanted from the police service were the same things that they wanted when they visited a bank or a building society, or went shopping - a prompt and professional service with problems taken seriously. 'All it requires is a recognition that service delivery means treating others as we would expect to be treated - fairly, sensitively and as individuals. It is not a soft option,' he said.
Tony Blair, shadow Home Secretary, said yesterday: 'The survey shows there are still high levels of concern among certain groups within the community, which must be urgently addressed. But the overall level of support shows that the public know, even if the Government do not, that rising crime cannot simply be laid at the door of the police. It is the Government that should, and will, carry ultimate responsibility.'