Jessica Watkins / Abdulkareem al-Jerba / Mahdi al-Delaimi

Locating the Local Police in Iraq’s Security Arena: Community Policing, the ‘Three Ps’ and Trust in Ninawa Province

Third World Quarterly | 2022

  • Abstract

    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

    Number of Pages


    Abdulkareem al-Jerba

    Abdulkareem al-Jerba

    Al-Tahreer Association for Development

    Mahdi al-Delaimi

    Mahdi al-Delaimi

    University of Mosul


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