Associate Professor of Government Erica De Bruin recently published a peer-reviewed article in the journal Small Wars & Insurgencies. “Policing insurgency: are more militarized police more effective?” examines whether militarized policing is an effective way to combat insurgencies.
De Bruin said that while scholars and practitioners frequently recognize the central role that police play in counterinsurgency efforts, most assume that more militarized police — those with access to military grade weaponry and equipment — will be an asset. She tested this argument with original data on policing practices in 95 insurgencies.
Her analysis found no support for the idea that more militarized police aid states in their counterinsurgency efforts. “If anything,” she said, “the use of SWAT teams and other militarized tactical units is associated with worse outcomes for states in counterinsurgency campaigns.”
De Bruin’s research also shows that governments are not more likely to adopt militarized policing in response to more challenging insurgencies, which might have masked a positive effect of militarized policing on counterinsurgency outcomes. Her results contribute to a growing body of scholarship that documents the costs associated with militarized policing.
De Bruin will present her findings at the American Political Science Association Annual Conference in Seattle later this month, as well as at the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society in Reston, Va., in October.
This research was supported by a grant from the Centennial Fund, a fund of the American Political Science Association’s Centennial Center, and by the Arthur Levitt Center for Public Affairs. It builds on research De Bruin conducted in 2020 with Levitt Center summer and winter research groups that included Max Gersch ’23, Alexander Nemeth ’22, Jenny Tran ’22, Huzefah Umer ’21, Nicole Eisenberg ’21, Diana Perez ’21, and Greg Varney ’22.