Terrorist attacks targeting the police: the connection to foreign military presence

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Terrorist attacks–suicide attacks in particular–targeting police have increased worldwide over the past decade in both number and relative to other targets. One plausible explanation for this is the presence of a foreign military on a country’s soil, which is theorized to increase terrorism in that country. Terrorist attacks targeting the police may be more likely in these countries because police typically are tasked with assisting the foreign military. The primary research question asks whether there is a relationship between foreign military presence and terrorist attacks on police. This is assessed using a cross-sectional sample of 82 countries, with data drawn from several sources between 1999 and 2008. Because the dependent variables–terrorist attacks targeting the police–are proportions, Tobit and Cragg’s double-hurdle analyses were used. Analyses were confirmed using zero-inflated negative binomial regression models, with the outcomes measured as counts. Foreign military presence significantly increased the proportion of suicide terrorist attacks targeting the police, terrorist attacks using any tactic targeting the police and fatal terrorist attacks targeting the police. Greater economic inequality, involvement in civil war and greater regional terrorism were related to the proportion of attacks targeting police, but each was inconsistent across the outcome measures. To avoid being viewed as an occupying force and, thus, to decrease the proportion and count of terrorist attacks targeting police, administrators and officers alike may wish to reflect on public perception of their image. Future research should expand the dependent variable to include additional target types and a longer time period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-240
Number of pages19
JournalPolice Practice and Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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