Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Lack of Confidence in Police Creates a “Blue Ceiling” for Sex Workers' Safety

Document type Article
Author Shaver, Frances M.
Author Atchison, Chris
Author Benoit, Cecilia
Author Casey, Lauren
Author Jansson, Mikael
Author Magnus, Samantha
Author Ouellet, Nadia
Author Phillips, Rachel
Author Reimer, Bill
Author Reist, Dan
Author Smith, Michaela
Journal Canadian Public Policy
Volume 42
Date 2016 December
ISSN 0317-0861, 1911-9917
Pages 456-468


Confidence in the police is fundamental to citizens' willingness to report unlawful behaviour, share intelligence about crime, seek help when victimized, and generally comply with the law. Marginalized groups overwhelmingly report a lack of confidence that police will apply the law fairly. Although sex work research reports a wide range of negative experiences with the police, it is not known how common these experiences are because most research focuses solely on street-based sex workers and does not include quantitative measures. We report on confidence in the police through the analysis of relevant data gathered from in-person interviews with sex workers from six census metropolitan areas of Canada. Under the pre-2014 legal regime, our non-random sample of sex workers had lower confidence in police than estimated for other Canadians by the General Social Survey and were particularly unlikely to see police as treating sex workers fairly. Thematic analysis suggests this is primarily driven by stigma and discrimination. We also found a significant minority who reported the police to be a source of aid, suggesting that appropriate policy and program regimes could be developed to improve sex worker–police relations.