Establishing citizens’ trust in state security institutions, especially the police, is essential to reducing crime and insecurity. Community-oriented policing (COP) is a popular approach to achieving this goal. Rigorous evidence on the effectiveness of COPs have thus far been limited to rich countries, but may not travel to a developing country setting.
Together with Rob Blair and Anna Wilke, and in collaboration with the Ugandan Police Force, our COP project (launched in 2018) is designed to improve understanding of whether and how COP can improve citizen-police relations and reduce crime in contexts of high poverty and low state capacity. In particular, we are interested in whether police-related components of community policing (such as town hall meetings and foot patrols) have to be supplemented by community-oriented components (such as the creation of neighborhood watch teams).
Overall, the community policing program had no impact on the incidence of crime as well as on perceptions of and trust in the police. Community members were no more likely to say they were satisfied with police, or less likely to say they were intimidated by police. Further, the program appears to have increased rather than decreased police misbehavior, especially with regard to bribe-seeking and corruption.
The community policing program increased the frequency of interactions between community and police, but it seems that these encounters were sometimes accompanied by police requests for bribes to pay for resources to do their jobs effectively, such as fuel or stationery.
However, citizens’ knowledge about the criminal justice system improved due to the program, and the number of crimes reported to the Ugandan Police Force (UPF) increased, which may reflect an increase in crime reporting rather than an increase in crime.
Blair, Graeme, Jeremy M. Weinstein, Fotini Christia, Eric Arias, Emile Badran, Robert A. Blair, Ali Cheema, Ahsan Farooqui, Thiemo Fetzer, Guy Grossman, Dotan Haim, Zulfiqar Hameed, Rebecca Hanson, Ali Hasanain, Dorothy Kronick, Benjamin S. Morse, Robert Muggah, Fatiq Nadeem, Lily L. Tsai, Matthew Nanes, Tara Slough, Nico Ravanilla, Jacob N. Shapiro, Barbara Silva, Pedro C. L. Souza and Anna M. Wilke. 2021. “Community policing does not build citizen trust in police or reduce crime in the Global South.” Science 374(6571):eabd3446.
Blair, Robert, Guy Grossman, and Anna Wilke. 2021. “Can community policing improve police-community relations in an electoral authoritarian regime? Experimental evidence from Uganda,” Working paper.