Police Violence and Corruption in Russia: Prevalence, Correlates, and Consequences

In this paper we examine the prevalence, correlates, and consequences of police violence and police corruption in contemporary Russia using data from seven surveys conducted in 2002-2004 and nine focus groups. Both forms of police abuse are widespread, though our estimates are somewhat lower than other figures that have been reported by media sources. Younger males, non-European ethnics, urban residents, and those with lower socio-economic status are more likely to be victims of police abuse. Direct experiences of police abuse undermine confidence in the police and the legal system more generally. Few Russians view police violence as acceptable or legal. The focus group materials suggest that many Russians want to trust the police but cannot do so in light of their personal encounters with police abuse. Our data provide grounds for concluding that the Russian police are an example of a dysfunctional public institution, one that does more public harm than public good. Lack of trust in the police and in legal institutions is rooted in their dysfunctional performance, not in cultural predispositions.

Available upon request.

Sarah E. Mendelson, Theodore P. Gerber