Police corruption is a universal problem, but it is a particular challenge in countries in crisis and emerging from conflict. This report is based on the lessons gleaned from a review of public commissions of inquiry into police misconduct worldwide and their possible application in stability operations, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

294

Summary

  • Police corruption is an international problem. Historically, police misconduct has been a factor in the development of police institutions worldwide, but it is a particular problem in counterinsurgency and peacekeeping operations, such as the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization police training program in Afghanistan. There, police abuse and corruption appear endemic and have caused some Afghans to seek the assistance of the Taliban against their own government.
  • The most reliable and extensive knowledge about police corruption in the world’s English speaking countries is found in the reports of specially appointed blue-ribbon commissions, independent of government, created for the sole purpose of conducting investigations of police corruption.
  • To reduce police corruption, the commissions recommend creating external oversight over the police with a special focus on integrity, improving recruitment and training, leadership from supervisors of all ranks about integrity, holding all commanders responsible for the misbehavior of subordinates, and changing the organization’s culture to tolerate misbehavior less.
  • The remedies proposed by the commissions, however, rely on a set of contextual conditions not commonly found in countries emerging from conflict or facing serious threats to their security.
  • This report suggests triage and bootstraps as strategies for reducing police corruption in countries with security threats. Triage involves targeting assistance in countries where there are solid prospects for tipping police practice in the desired direction. Bootstraps involves using reform within the police itself as a lever to encourage systemic social and political reform in countries in crisis or emerging from conflict.

About the Report

Police corruption is a universal problem, but it is a particular challenge in countries in crisis and emerging from conflict. This report is based on the lessons gleaned from a review of public commissions of inquiry into police misconduct worldwide and their possible application in stability operations, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. The study attempts to determine whether past scandals can help us deal more effectively with the contemporary problems of nation building and police reform.

About the Authors

David Bayley is the former dean and current distinguished professor of the School of Criminal Justice at the State University of New York at Albany. He was a member of the International Oversight Commission for police reform in Northern Ireland. Bayley is also a member of the UN Global Police Policy Community advisory group. He is the author of Changing the Guard: Developing Democratic Police Abroad (2006) and other books.

Robert Perito is the director of the Security Sector Governance Center at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He is the former acting director of the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program at the U.S. Department of Justice. He is the author of Where Is the Lone Ranger When We Need Him? America’s Search for a Postconflict Stability Force. Bayley and Perito are coauthors of Police in War: Fighting Insurgency, Terrorism, and Violent Crime (2010).

The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policy positions.

Related Publications

Afghans Want the Right Peace Deal, Not Just an End to Violence

Afghans Want the Right Peace Deal, Not Just an End to Violence

Monday, August 19, 2019

By: Belquis Ahmadi

Afghans are hopeful that a peace deal between the Taliban and the U.S. will bring them a step closer to the end of the country’s four decades of conflict. This protracted state of war has resulted in the loss of countless lives; mass displacement; and the destruction of infrastructure and the education and justice systems. Afghans will feel the consequences for generations to come.

Peace Processes

Afghanistan Still Has a Chance to Improve This Election

Afghanistan Still Has a Chance to Improve This Election

Monday, August 5, 2019

By: Chelsea Dreher; Ezatullah Waqar

As the United States, the Afghan government and the Taliban maneuver toward a peace process for the country, the strength of the current Afghan government and political system will be affected by the credibility, in Afghans’ eyes, of the presidential election set for September 28. Yet the credibility of Afghan elections is weakened by unresolved allegations of criminal fraud—especially against the nation’s former top election officials—in last year’s parliamentary balloting. With just 53 days remaining before the presidential vote, time is now short—but Afghan authorities still can take steps to improve the prospects for an election that citizens might see as credible and legitimate.

Democracy & Governance; Justice, Security & Rule of Law

Taliban Talks and Violence Loom Over Afghan Presidential Elections

Taliban Talks and Violence Loom Over Afghan Presidential Elections

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

By: Scott Worden; USIP Staff

Campaign season for Afghanistan’s twice-delayed presidential elections opened in grisly fashion on Sunday. An insurgent attack on the Kabul office of President Ashraf Ghani’s top running mate, Amrullah Saleh, killed more than 20 and wounded at least 50. As the attack demonstrates, security will be a top concern during the elections. But, the ongoing U.S.-Taliban talks and nascent intra-Afghan negotiations further complicate matters. And on top of all that, Afghanistan’s post-2001 elections have been characterized by deep challenges, many of which remain unaddressed with little time to fix. USIP’s Scott Worden surveys the scene two months ahead of the vote.

Democracy & Governance

View All Publications