POLICING & CRIMINAL JUSTICE
How Does Subnational Variation in Repression Affect Attitudes Toward Police? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Iraq
Recent episodes of severe police repression and violence against protesters around the world have brought new urgency to longstanding calls for police reform and in some cases more fundamental structural changes including abolition of existing police institutions. However, the police are not monolithic and there is considerable subnational variation in the extent to which individual police officers and units use excessive force against civilians, and this variation has important implications for police legitimacy in the eyes of the public. In Iraq, where federal police violently repressed anti-government demonstrations in 2019—killing more than 600 protesters—but local police refrained from violence and in some cases intervened to protect civilians, public opinion became significantly more negative toward federal police but not toward local police. These results suggest that civilians distinguish between the conduct of different actors in a decentralized, fragmented security apparatus and attribute blame individually rather than collectively blaming the state security apparatus as a whole. I suggest that two mechanisms—decentralization and fragmentation of state security institutions—interact to shape the pattern of subnational police violence in Iraq and discuss broader implications for police reform in Iraq and beyond
Perceptions of Security and Police in Iraq:
Baseline Survey Findings
(with Olga Aymerich)
The International Organization for Migration and Yale Law School's Center for Global Legal Challenges (April 2020)
This report by IOM Iraq and Yale Law School Center for Global Legal Challenges aims to shed light on the inter-related security and governance factors at play in three diverse communities in Iraq – Jubeil (Anbar), Hamdaniyah (Ninewa) and Baradiyah (Basra) – as a way to contextualize and evaluate the effectiveness of community policing programming. This baseline study evaluates civilians’ attitudes and behaviors towards providers of security and justice; their perceptions of the legitimacy of the Iraqi government; police officers’ attitudes and behaviors toward civilians; and the prevalence of crime and violence. The study finds that communities directly affected by the ISIL crisis perceive the greatest relative improvement in security, while governance and economic issues are at the top of community concerns across all communities. The survey results also indicated heavy reliance on informal actors such as tribes and religious leaders for informal mediation and dispute resolution. Additionally, in all three communities, a majority of respondents would not allow female family members to report problems to the police on their own.
How Does Punishment Affect Reintegration of
Former Offenders? Evidence from Iraq
(with Kristen Kao)
How does variation in the severity of punishment affect public opinion toward the reintegration of former nonviolent offenders? We study this question in the context of Iraq, where the United States has been heavily involved in the design and development of criminal justice institutions since overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in 2003. Building upon extensive fieldwork and interviews in Iraq, we designed a survey experiment—a method developed in the social sciences but not yet widely used by legal scholars—that randomly varied the severity of sentences in hypothetical scenarios of nonviolent Islamic State “collaborators” (e.g., cleaners, cooks, and wives of fighters) to estimate the causal effects of punishment on attitudes toward reintegration. We find that a long prison sentence (15 years) does not increase the likelihood of participants’ willingness to allow the reintegration of former offenders, but a noncarceral punishment (community service) has a small but statistically significant positive effect. Our most striking finding is that noncarceral and community-based justice mechanisms can significantly increase the likelihood of successful reintegration after punishment. Fifteen percent of respondents who were initially opposed to the return of former offenders into their communities said that they would be willing to change their judgment and support reintegration if they were asked to do so by a tribal or religious leader, or if the offender completes a noncarceral rehabilitation program. These findings suggest that noncarceral, restorative, and community-based justice mechanisms may be equally or even more effective than long-term incarceration for achieving the objectives of rehabilitation and eventual reintegration of former nonviolent offenders. Our study also advances the field of comparative empirical legal scholarship by providing an innovative experimental research design that can be replicated by scholars studying other contexts including the United States to help answer important questions about the causal effects of criminal justice policies.