The Need to Generate Knowledge
In all five of the committee’s reports in this series, the scientific evidence for answering key questions has been limited by a lack of data for statistical analyses and by a longstanding lack of research on these issues in the countries of most relevance to foreign assistance donors. In the previous four reports, the committee was able to draw on research done primarily in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, some of which has recently been replicated in other countries, and to point to contextual differences where research interpretations will matter. In this final report, there is little systematic research to draw on. Research on how police can and have contributed to efforts to combat high-level corruption is noticeably absent. Since existing literature on rule of law, policing, and corruption points to both the opportunities and perils of engaging police in fighting high-level corruption, efforts to do so should be informed by scientific knowledge to the extent possible and monitored for any unintended consequences.
ASSEMBLING DATA ON POLICE ANTI-CORRUPTION ROLE
Developing such scientific knowledge is key but challenging. Drawing causal inferences on what works, what does not, and what is promising at the nation-state level cannot be based on the same research methods for studying individuals or communities. Nor can they be based on comparative snapshots at a single point in time. Ideally, they should be drawn from a population analysis of countries in which three kinds of situations can be coded: no efforts by police to reduce high-level corruption, failed efforts by police to reduce high-level corruption, and successful efforts.
This approach creates a longitudinal basis for comparing factors commonly present or absent for the three-way coding of cases by country. The study of state failure over centuries provides a heuristic for such research (e.g., Gurr, 1974) with appropriate modifications. An approach of that kind has not been used to compare outcomes from various categories of police initiatives across countries. Nor is there a great abundance of examples in which police institutions succeeded in combatting high-level corruption, relative to the number of examples in which police were co-opted by corrupt and law-breaking governments. Yet the examples that can be found could offer helpful knowledge for developing police institutions.
Therefore, the best opportunity to begin to learn how police can protect the rule of law against high-level corruption lies in case studies—detailed descriptions that can generate hypotheses for discussion and further research. The best case studies for these purposes would provide great detail about which roles in policing use which strategies that gathered adequate evidence to help combat high-level corruption. While such detailed case studies are not readily available, many examples can be identified as targets for further research.
The report itself provides an overview of some examples of anticorruption efforts. Yet it also provides repeated cautions about the difficulties of discerning the difference between police acting independently to uphold the law, versus police taking sides with one faction that uses the law to take power away from a competing faction. Further cautions concern the generalizability of even clear-cut successes to other countries with different cultures, legal systems, and traditions.
The exact forms and expressions of high-level corruption vary by country. The success of any police contribution in reducing corruption, particularly high-level corruption, is interconnected with other strategies aimed at the police’s ability to promote the rule of law and protect the population. Additionally, the ability of police to assist in combatting high-level corruption often is coupled with related actions and motivations of public and private stakeholders, especially the judiciary and the news media. Police involvement will likely require cooperation from citizens; as such, building and sustaining legitimacy will be important (NASEM, 2022a). A noted caution is that all contributors may be influenced by the degree of operational independence police can defend from political interference under the supervision of impartial and independent courts and prosecutors.
If foreign assistance donors invested in developing knowledge of how police have succeeded in contributing to the protection of the rule of law, there could be an open-source model of a database to document case studies and relevant data. Eligible case studies to be included in the database should include those with both positive and negative outcomes for defending rule of law. The database can be modeled on the work of the Political Instability
Task Force (Goldstone et al., 2009), which documented every example possible of failed states over a very long time frame (see Box 3-1). Such a database would need experts for collecting, analyzing, and coding data. Several models can be considered, like the Global Terrorism Database or the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project on political violence in Africa, which are based on open sources and the systematic usage of such sources. Further, cooperation with journalists and networks of investigative journalists might be valuable for developing the database.
The proposed database and analyses of anti-corruption case studies can accumulate qualitative and quantitative details of anti-corruption efforts, tagged by country features. The database would, at minimum, make possible a quantitative approach that complements and is responsive to the kinds of qualitative case studies included in this report. These analyses should, where possible, identify both specific proximate causes of success or failure, but also the contextual variables that may have influenced proximate causes. What works to defend rule of law in civil law (i.e.,
“Napoleonic code”) countries, for example, may be different from what works in common law countries (e.g., former U.K. colonies).
CONCLUSION: Currently available evidence is inadequate to answer the critical question of how police can contribute to efforts to combat high-level corruption. Useful evidence cannot be developed without comparisons across countries that draw on a compilation of case studies using a standard coding framework. Yet funding such a compilation is a realistic and feasible goal for foreign assistance donors. In order to build a robust evidence base, the following actions could be undertaken:
- creation and continuous update of a database comprising a comprehensive set of case studies of successes and failures in police efforts to guard the rule of law against threats by national or local governments.
- a variety of independent analyses, engaging multidisciplinary research teams across multiple countries, to examine the proposed database for key predictors of success. With sufficient time and accumulation of cases analyzed, multivariate analyses can at least develop correlations that could be useful as guides to planning, training and policies.
- bringing together analysts of the database with supported program developers and trainers working in specific language groups and regional clusters. These partnerships should then develop and test programming for police leaders that can be tailored to local contexts.
ASSESSING THE STATE OF CORRUPTION
A contextual understanding of the drivers of corruption and the broader political economy need to first be considered when deploying anticorruption measures. Without understanding the level or areas of highest corruption, programs will not be as effective as they could be. Diagnosing the problem is crucial to designing anti-corruption strategies, and the success of interventions depends on not just internal factors of project design and implementation but also the external environment in which they are implemented (Rahman, 2022). Assessments can be conducted by the agency, an outside expert assessor/assessor team, or a hybrid approach. They are usually conducted with mixed methods and can include: key informant interviews, focus groups, document reviews, bespoke surveys.
In-field assessment will usually be designed after a desk review. A desk review will try to gather general knowledge about the historical, political,
and economic context of a particular community drawing on other assessments and available survey and index data (see discussion of assessment tools in Chapter 1).
While general assessments offer some indication of the state of corruption, they are not germane to the conversation of how police deal with corruption. It is difficult to find on-point police corruption assessments, and what is needed is help for donor teams to think through creating tools for their assessment. Ultimately, corruption assessments will be lacking if they do not engage in political economy analysis (see Box 3-2).
While PEA has been resurging in many sectors, and even USAID has an Applied PEA Framework to add value to their strategy and activities in a country, there is no guide available that describes how to apply PEA to police and corruption. There is a complication of “high-level corruption”, as a PEA in a given country may convey that police cannot tackle that level of corruption, but that does not mean it should not be more closely examined as an approach. It would be very promising to identify areas where opportunity exists for the police to engage in anti-corruption work, such as the example in Uganda outlined in Chapter 2.
Likewise, USAID’s framework offers an example that PEA may guide an exploration of the kinds of changes that may be possible when new leaders who espouse a commitment to combatting corruption gain power in a system that has historically been grounded in patronage. But without knowing the subtle nuances of the culture and how sectors and institutions are interacting, these potential changes will be difficult to see. Tackling low-level corruption and achieving gains there can lay the foundation for building the political will and public demand necessary to tackle higher-level corruption.
RECOMMENDATION: INL should commission the development of a political economy analysis guidebook for anti-corruption work by a team of expert assessors, anti-corruption experts, and policing experts. The guidebook would be a tool to be applied to individual country assessments to inform understanding of the local dynamics affecting the integrity of the rule of law. While it would not specifically recommend courses of action, it could help to shape the discussion about what those choices might be.