Public Experiences of Police Violence and Corruption in Contemporary Russia: A Case of Predatory Policing?


  • We are grateful for generous financial support for collection of the data described in this article from the Ford Foundation, USAID, and the Glaser Progress Foundation. We also wish to acknowledge helpful feedback and advice from Tanya Lokshina, Richard Lotspeich, Borislav Petranov, William Alex Pridemore, Ronald Weitzer, Grigory Shvedov, Steven Solnick, Marina Zaloznaya, the anonymous reviewers, and the current and previous LSR editors.

Please address correspondence to Theodore P. Gerber, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, e-mail:, or to Sarah E. Mendelson, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1800 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006, e-mail:


“Predatory policing” occurs where police officers mainly use their authority to advance their own material interests rather than to fight crime or protect the interests of elites. These practices have the potential to seriously compromise the public's trust in the police and other legal institutions, such as courts. Using data from six surveys and nine focus groups conducted in Russia, we address four empirical questions: (1) How widespread are public encounters with police violence and police corruption in Russia? (2) To what extent does exposure to these two forms of police misconduct vary by social and economic characteristics? (3) How do Russians perceive the police, the courts, and the use of violent methods by the police? (4) How, if at all, do experiences of police misconduct affect these perceptions? Our results suggest that Russia conforms to a model of predatory policing. Despite substantial differences in its law enforcement institutions and cultural norms regarding the law, Russia resembles the United States in that direct experiences of police abuse reduce confidence in the police and in the legal system more generally. The prevalence of predatory policing in Russia has undermined Russia's democratic transition, which should call attention to the indispensable role of the police and other public institutions in the success of democratic reforms.