KUSHA: Iran’s use of police hinders modernization

East Carolina University criminal justice professor Hamid R. Kusha said that an ancient system continues to impede Iran’s efforts to modernize its national police force.

Dr. Hamid Kusha

In his case study “Impediments to Police Modernization in Iran, 1878-1979,” published recently in Policing and Society, Kusha discusses the history of policing in Iran and the many failed tries at modernizing the country’s National Police.

Historic misuse of its national police force stems from an ancient system that protects the interest of the country’s rulers rather than its citizens, Kusha said. That system presents a roadbloack to the country’s modernization.

In the study Kusha dissects the inability of Iran’s police to function as a neutral law enforcement institution, from the country’s ancient past to the Islamic revolution in 1979. He details the antiquated modes and methods of Iran’s police, failed modernization efforts by the Qajaar and Pahlavi regimes, the geopolitics of Western economies hungry for Iranian oil and raw products and the capitalism-based modernization schemes of the 19th and 20thcenturies.

Kusha said that through all of Iran’s regime changes and attempts at democratization and modernization, the police have been used to enforce the arbitrary will of the powerful. For example, in trying to modernize Iran in the 1930s, Reza Shah used the police in forced unveilings of Muslim women and girls, and he authorized police use of illegal intelligence gathering.

Policing in Iran lacks the basic principles of professional Western policing constructed upon informed consent and the presumption of innocence, Kusha said. He said Iran’s National Police force lacks an institutionalized sense of justice and citizens do not perceive the force as protectors.

“Looking at the present turmoil in the Middle East from Afghanistan to the west coast of north Africa, one could argue that police institutions have played significant roles in the suppression of dissent in these countries, be it political or social,” said Kusha. “New emerging regimes must avoid turning the police into an instrument of suppression. The police must be in sync with overall democratization of the state.”

Kusha said the U.S. departments of State, Justice, Defense and Homeland Security have lessons to learn as well.

He said, “The MO of these departments in the past is that whoever is capable of subduing malcontents regardless of methods is helping U.S. interest in the region. The new policy must be, whoever is trying to democratize the state and its policing apparatus in Middle Eastern countries is our friend in the long run.”

To read the full text of “Impediments to Police Modernization in Iran, 1878-1979,” visit http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10439463.2012.661430#tabModule