Translational Criminology - FALL 2022: The $230 Billion Question: Why Is So Much Being Spent on International Police Assistance with So Little Evidence?

Published by Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, George Mason University

International Police Assistance

Each year, the US, UK, and other key donors spend billions of dollars on international police assistance based on very little evidence of “what works.” The United Nations and the US alone expended over $230 billion from 2000 to 2020 (Mailhot et al., 2022). Much of this may have been unsuited for contexts lacking state capacity and where political elites had no ability or interest in reform, as most clearly demonstrated by prominent failures in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the failure is one of research as well as policy. As one 2020 US paper noted, there is little evidence in support of the interventions aimed at reducing police violence in the United States (Engel et al., 2020). If we don’t have evidence on “what works” to address police violence (evidence on how to counter corruption isn’t much better (Gans-Morse et al., 2018)) in the most studied country context, what does that say about efforts in the rest of the world? Police science also draws heavily on findings from the US, which has a unique governance architecture for policing, with about 15,900 more jurisdictions than any other country. How transferable then are findings?...