Policing Ethnicity: Lab-in-the-Field Evidence on Discrimination, Cooperation, and Ethnic Balancing in the Liberian National Police
79 Pages Posted: 1 May 2016 Last revised: 9 Jan 2019
Date Written: January 6, 2019
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 cooperative 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 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
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