Policing Ethnicity: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence on Discrimination, Cooperation and Ethnic Balancing in the Liberian National Police

65 Pages Posted: 1 May 2016 Last revised: 23 Nov 2016

Robert A. Blair

Brown University

Sabrina Karim

Emory University

Michael J. Gilligan

New York University - Department of Politics

Kyle C. Beardsley

Emory University

Date Written: April 29, 2016

Abstract

Peace agreements often include provisions for integrating minority ethnic groups into security sector institutions. Advocates argue that “ethnic balancing” reduces discrimination; opponents counter that it erodes unit cohesion. We test these predictions against each other using surveys and lab-in-the-field experiments implemented with teams of Liberian National Police officers. We find that teams that include minority police officers are no more or less cooperative than those that do not, and that heterogeneous teams are no more or less co-operative than homogeneous ones. We also find, however, that teams with minority police officers are more rather than less discriminatory against minority civilians -- a substantively large and highly statistically significant adverse effect. We show that this effect is not driven by heterogeneity, but rather specifically by the presence of minority police officers per se. We explore potential mechanisms and provide reasons for both optimism and caution towards ethnic balancing in deeply divided societies.

Keywords: peacebuilding, security sector reform, policing, ethnic conflict and cooperation, discrimination, Liberia, lab-in-the-field experiments

Suggested Citation

Blair, Robert A. and Karim, Sabrina and Gilligan, Michael J. and Beardsley, Kyle C., Policing Ethnicity: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence on Discrimination, Cooperation and Ethnic Balancing in the Liberian National Police (April 29, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2772634 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2772634

Robert A. Blair (Contact Author)

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Sabrina Karim

Emory University

Michael J. Gilligan

New York University - Department of Politics ( email )

19 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

Kyle C. Beardsley

Emory University ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-7506 (Phone)

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