Since 2003, frequent outbreaks of violence in Iraq have led to a heavily militarised local police force. In the post-ISIL period, there have been renewed efforts to develop the community-oriented dimensions of the force, including dedicated community police units. Yet, against a backdrop of systemic corruption, the success of such efforts is by no means guaranteed.

Our study uses 82 qualitative interviews conducted with respect to four distinct case study areas of Anbar and Ninewa provinces. We assess how various societal stakeholders relate to the police and what they perceive to be prerequisites for increasing public confidence in police services.

Our findings suggest significant regional and demographic variations, but broadly indicate that notwithstanding widespread public recognition of the presence of political agendas and corruption within the security forces, there is considerable demand for a police cadre that is trained to deal humanely with the population. Adopting certain police assistance practices could help achieve this goal without exacerbating predatory behaviour within the local police.