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The Silent Militarization: Explaining the Logic of Military Members’ Appointment as Police Chiefs

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What explains the militarization of public safety? Despite its failures, police militarization remains a popular policy. Existing scholarship has mainly focused on the police adopting military weapons and tactics but has neglected a silent but consequential type: the appointment of military members as police chiefs. Whereas the conventional wisdom points to partisanship and violence as key drivers, I argue that the militarization of police leaders responds to political motives. Based on a novel data set on 5,580 appointments in Mexico and repeated event history analysis, I find evidence of a top-down militarization sequence. Mayors are more likely to appoint military chiefs when upper levels of government and peers embrace a militarized security strategy. I further illustrate how coercive pressures and strategic incentives drive this sequence.

Keywords: Mexico; coercive pressures; federalism; mayors; police chiefs; police militarization; policing; strategic incentives

Appeared or available online: January 11, 2023

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