Cops. Crooked, incompetent, corrupt, brutal, bigoted and power hungry. These are the cinematic and television depictions of law enforcers that have stood the test of time, from the sleazy sheriffs of the Wild West to the drug dealing fuzz in American Gangster. They’re meant to be here to protect us, but they’re not to be trusted. Recent television depictions of the police force, however, might just be responsible for increasing our trust in the jacks.

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The annual Roy Morgan Image of Professions survey has reported Australian Police are sitting at their highest trust rating for ethics and honesty in the 35 years of the survey. Cop dramas have long populated our home grown content, from Blue Heelers to City Homicide, but seeing real Policemen and women doing real, and often pretty menial, tasks on reality programs may explain the climb in the rating.

“The sharp rise in the image of Police may be in part explained by the number of law-enforcement observational series on our television screens which clearly resonate with viewers,” says Michelle Levine from Roy Morgan.

Levine says trust in ethics and honesty in certain professions was up across the board, and credited the rise out of the global financial crisis as restoring confidence. Nurses are in no urgent need of a marketing rebrand, scoring a 90% rating, meaning they took out top spot for the 17th year in the row. White coat jobs were most trusted overall, with Doctors (87%) and dentists (76%) scoring healthy results.

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The much maligned car salesman bucked the positive trend, however, dropping 2% to a dire 3% consumer confidence in ethics and honesty. Marketing magazine wondered whether the perception of the shonky car salesman still holds true or is simply a stereotype perpetuated by mythology and the entertainment industry. Andrew Wilson from The Other Dimension, has a foot in both camps, but reckons some people in the industry are trying to turn it around.

“As with most stereotypes, the bad perception started with a basis in truth,” Wilson tells Marketing magazine. “There are a lot of dealerships where they will go out of their way to address the negative stereotypes and provide exemplary service, but dealing at the lower end, the stereotype still exists.”

Wilson says the scummy perception comes from abuse of trust in the past.

“Cars are an area where most people don’t have a lot of expertise, so they’re vulnerable to being let astray,” Wilson says. “People put a lot of trust in dealers. Traditionally, sellers and mechanics have used that to their advantage, they overwhelm the customers. A car is also a low frequency purchase, every 4 to 5 years usually, so often the dealer isn’t worried too much about the consumer’s experience. But the customer is becoming more informed and it’s a more competitive landscape. If you’re not getting good service one place, you’ll go down the road.”