Three academics from Pakistani and US institutions–with backgrounds in experimental methods and policy evaluations along with research interests in the political economy of development, security policy, corruption, and governance–conducted this study on community policing. They partnered with the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (IDEAS) to evaluate a policing intervention focused on “citizen-centric problem-oriented policing” in the Sheikhupura Range, Pakistan.
To assess the effects of community policing, the field experiment included two treatment arms and a control arm. The first treatment arm constituted police engagement with citizens in the form of community meetings, expecting that treatment will increase mutual trust between police and citizens and reduce crime. The second treatment arm extended community engagement to incorporate a gender-sensitive platform. Due to social norms that prevent mixed-gender meetings and voicing gender-related issues, the treatment included women-only forums conducted by female constables to measure women’s perception on crime.
Preliminary findings from the midline survey show an increase in citizens’ positive sentiment toward the police. Citizens’ belief about police intentions and norms of cooperation with the police have improved, whereas perceptions of future insecurity have decreased. In the second treatment arm, the researchers find that women raise a different set of questions than men in the women-only forums where they are more likely to focus on family-related issues rather than property issues.
In the sections that follow, the brief outlines IDEAS’s decision to partner with the research team, their working relationship, and discussion on dissemination of the findings. Information within this brief has been provided by interviews with Mr. Ahsan Farooqui, programs manager for IDEAS, and Dr. Jacob Shapiro, one of the three academics on the research team.
Decisions to Partner with the Research Team
The partnership between IDEAS and the research team was a natural collaboration. With his fellow colleagues, Dr. Ali Cheema, a member of the research team and senior research fellow at IDEAS, has spent several years building the research capacity in Pakistan via two prominent research institutions: IDEAS and the Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP). Shapiro noted that since IDEAS is more partial toward immediate policy relevance, the partnership was a natural fit for the Metaketa Initiative project. Moreover, the research team already established a partnership with IDEAS, previously collaborating on policing projects based in Lahore and Sargodha districts–the latter being the initial research location for the Metaketa Initiative. One of these projects included a baseline survey on crime victimization with 5,040 Lahori constituents, which was then used to inform the Metaketa Initiative research design. However, due to challenges including personnel transfers, research was stymied in these districts. The Metaketa Initiative allowed an opportunity to relocate the project to the Sheikhupura Range. Fortunately, because IDEAS had spent several years developing relationships with stakeholders in Lahore––establishing trust with the police, building networks with local government, and connecting with citizens––the research team and IDEAS successfully partnered with local stakeholders and integrated the project in Sheikhupura.
In characterizing the purpose of the project, Farooqui recollected a high-profile child abuse case that exposed the gap in relations between citizens and police. The case underscored the need to design an intervention for the community to build trust and a common understanding between the two actors. Community policing offers a less costly alternative to reactionary policing, which Farooqui found quite interesting. This idea of community policing had been previously discussed but not yet tested in an experimental setting, so seeing the design to fruition was appealing to him. In the end, continuing the partnership into the Metaketa Initiative with an experimental setting in another field site was a cogent next step for both partners.
Working with the Team
IDEAS has been heavily involved in the project from design to implementation and analysis. Since the organization has a quality inhouse survey team, they helped with the survey design, conducted baseline and midline surveys, and will launch the impending endline survey. Farooqui also explained that IDEAS provided research assistants to monitor field activities and ensure protocols were followed, such as confirming community policing forums were held, maintaining compliance among participants and stakeholders, and limiting contamination across treatment and control arms. The team of research assistants, Shapiro noted, frequently visited the field site to continually engage with constituents, head constables, and local government officials. IDEAS also assisted in collecting administrative data, training local partners, and adapting the design to local contexts, while another research assistant has helped with data analysis.
In the planning and initial stages of the project, Shapiro emphasized the importance of taking into account and budgeting for ongoing conversations with in-country contacts to maintain those relationships. It can be detrimental to a project to launch the baseline survey and then disappear for months at a time. He recounted that IDEAS’s role in maintaining these deep relationships with the government and police, particularly in the beginning, was vital to the project. Another important and related aspect to successful collaborations is maintaining open communication lines between the two partners. Farooqui described holding weekly calls with the research team that followed an organized agenda discussing the project cycle, which helped sustain the workflow.
Reflecting on what could have been done differently, Farooqui expressed difficulties with the randomization conducted at the police beat level due to eroded administrative tasks and data. He stated that implementing treatment at the police station level would have been more ideal because most administrative work is completed there, but he also recognized that treatment at smaller units increases the sample size, an important aspect to data analysis.
Dissemination of Findings
The project is not yet complete but results from the midline survey were shared between the research team and implementing partner. The launch of the endline survey was originally planned to take place during the summer months, but due to Covid-19 related disruptions, this target date has been temporarily pushed back and put on hold. Upon completion of the project, the research team will work with IDEAS to write the final report and they intend to hold several dissemination events with local partners.
As stated above, midline findings indicate a significant increase in a positive sentiment toward police. Once the project is complete, Shapiro stated that they will examine and report on the intervention’s impact on crime levels since it would be premature to do so at this point in the project. Beyond the general midline findings, Shapiro and Farooqui both highlighted the success of the gender-inclusive treatment arm. Shapiro explained that the selected field site forms a hard case to test this intervention because Sheikhupura is extremely conservative and stratified along gender lines, making it difficult for women to participate outside the home especially in attending and speaking up in public meetings. Stakeholders were initially skeptical of the success of this treatment, as Farooqui described, because women in the area tend to be more conservative; however, they were pleasantly surprised to find the female participants were actually quite open. The researchers also found, as discussed above, substantive gender differences in perceptions on crime, where women were more likely to bring up family and gender-related questions in the forums compared to their male counterparts.
This brief examines the collaboration between researchers and implementers who administer community policing interventions in Sheikhupura, Pakistan. Farooqui recommended that once the endline survey is completed and analyzed, the team should actively engage in sharing the final results, particularly with the police, as dissemination engagement importantly impacts policy decision-making and implementation. He further expressed the wish to scale up the intervention and hopes more projects will follow. Additionally, Shapiro articulated the “tremendous externalities” the Metaketa Initiative has that reaches beyond policy implications: building the research capacity in partner countries and providing valuable experiences for people like Farooqui to then employ these skills in their own professional development. Shapiro further emphasized that Farooqui, in particular, has been absolutely indispensable in leading the field work for IDEAS. In all, Farooqui conveyed the research team and IDEAS have a good working relationship–the partnership has been mutually beneficial and a successful, positive experience to both parties.