Why do people cooperate with police in multi-ethnic societies? For scholars of comparative politics and international relations, examining the effects of ethnicity on patterns of conflict, cooperation, and state repression remains a foundational endeavor. Studies show individuals who share ethnicity are more likely to cooperate to provide public goods. Yet we do not know whether co-ethnic cooperation extends to the provision of law and order and, if so, why people might cooperate more with co-ethnic police officers. In the context of policing, I theorize co-ethnic bias affects interactions between people and the police because individuals prefer officers who share their ethnicity and fear repression more when encountering non-co-ethnic officers. Using a conjoint experiment in Uganda, I demonstrate that individuals prefer reporting crimes to co-ethnic officers, even after controlling for potential confounders. Broadly, this result is strongest among individuals with no trust in the police, the courts, or the political authorities. These findings have important implications for the politics of policing, conflict, and social order.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.