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Informal economic activities of the police: comparative analysis in transformation countries

Priority areas of development: sociology
2014
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goal of Research: Study of police culture of the countries in transformation in the realm of informal economic activities and its impact on police reforms.

Methodology: Questionnaire survey; Interview; Experimental methods

Empirical Base of Research: Sociological survey of 1850 police officers in Russia, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria and Latvia; Data of the World Values Survey in Russia, Kazakhstan and Estonia (4849 respondents); Data of laboratory experiments in Moscow and Almaty (Kazakhstan), 160 of police officers

Results of Research:

Survey data showed that the scale of informal payments in the Russian police is higher than that in the Kazakhstan. Both countries have similar centralized police system under the authoritarian political rule. However, the level of trust in the police among the population in the two countries differs notably: it is significantly higher in Kazakhstan (near 17 percentage points). This leads us to assume that there are some mechanisms in the Kazakh police (and possibly also in the society and culture), which allow Kazakhstan to achieve this result. Partly explain this gap has helped a laboratory experiment with the police in Kazakhstan and Russia: corruption norms in the Russian police departments formed more frequently than in Kazakh. However, when such norms are formed in the Kazakh police, they are more stable in the course of anti-corruption reforms than in Russia.

Informal practices in the police are significantly different in various services. Actually, the decision on the involvement of officers in these practices is not determined by their own but regulated by group norms. Variations of the police duties impact on the characteristics of informal practices in various services. Informal deals which are maintained by the informal group’s ends of the officers and do not involve direct violent pressure on a person (business person or suspect) and which do not pose a threat of violation of the informal code of ethics requiring punishment of serious crimes, the police officers often justify.

This does not mean that the informal economic activity of police does not harm society. Thus, during the research it was found that in regions with higher levels of the police’s informal economic activity citizens demonstrate a higher effective interest in acquiring weapons for defense. This means that the more police officers involved in the informal economy, the more they are engaged in employment outside of their police duties, including small business, involved in corruption, the more people think about how to protect themselves and, accordingly, more concerned with the buying of weapons for self-defense.

“Network” police corruption resembles more an intelligent enterprise than an anarchic criminal venture. It has regular customers, owners and workers. There is evidence of clear labor division, hierarchy and defined responsibilities. The process of production of corruption is carefully conceptualized with the client, organized and operationalized in an elegant assembly line, in which every member adds a new value to the final product. The production process is incentivized by a sense of property rights enforced by the secret code.

Nevertheless, organized police deviance is far from being an efficient or democratic state. Just like an organized criminal group, it fabricates threats and self-perpetuates on the very insecurity it injects in the market. It price discriminates clients and is unfair towards the very policemen who sustain it.

It is extremely difficult to restructure this system successfully. Due to the analysis of the Georgian reforms we can conclude, uncompromising logic of the fight against crime as a means for quick results may de facto substitutes welfare state. Someone can seen Saakashvili's Georgia  as an example that even effective radical reforms in the post-Soviet space can lead to emergence of the "criminal", repressive state.

Level of implementation,  recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

Participation in the development of new assessment techniques for precinct police taking into account public opinion. This technique was developed by the Academy of the Governance at the Interior Ministry with the participation of the team members of this research project. The methodology was tested in Moscow and Vologda.

Data collected during the project were used in the teaching, in particular, for the preparation of coursework and dissertations, one Ph.D. thesis was successfully defended.

Publications:


Kosals L., Maksimova A. Informality, crime and corruption in Russia: A review of recent literature // Theoretical Criminology. 2015. Vol. 19. No. 2. P. 278-288. doi
Аймалиев И. М. Сравнительный анализ сетевой полицейской коррупции в Болгарии и России // Журнал исследований социальной политики. 2016. Т. 14. № 2. С. 213-228.
Belianin A. V., Kosals L. Collusion and corruption: an experimental study of Russian police / NRU Higher School of Economics. Series WP9 "Исследования по экономике и финансам". 2015. No. WP9/2015/03.