Jessica Watkins / Abdulkareem al-Jerba / Mahdi al-Delaimi
Third World Quarterly | 2022
Post-2003, the Iraqi Police Service (IPS) has undergone a series of overhauls that have prioritised building institutional capacities (‘statebuilding’) above socio-political cohesion (‘nation-building’). Following the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), however, a community policing initiative premised on improving state–society relations has gained momentum. But while community policing is conceived in the Global North as a trust-building mechanism, how do Iraqi stakeholders locally perceive it, when the legacy of regime change has been to entrench a highly militarised police force beholden to patronage networks and heavily outnumbered by other security and justice providers? This paper considers policing in two diverse districts in Ninawa province: a rundown Sunni tribal neighbourhood in Mosul, and a predominantly Christian town in a multi-ethnic district. Drawing on qualitative interviews with 37 figures representing a spectrum of local interests, we explore how Iraqis understand three commonly touted characteristics of community policing: police–public partnerships; problem-solving; and preventing crime. Our findings suggest that while police conduct does impact how stakeholders view them, public trust in the police is at least as much a function of who the police are as of what they actually do, underscoring that police professionalism cannot substitute for political legitimacy more broadly.
Third World Quarterly