Community Policing: Case Studies

Kenya: Community policing and illiberal consequences

The police force in Kenya has never been regarded with a high level of popular legitimacy, since it continues to be agents of crime in the country.  Experimenting with various community policing strategies pioneered in the United Kingdom, the United States, and South Africa, the government embarked on an ambitious program of community policing police reform, in partnership international non-governmental organizations such as the Vera Institute of Justice and Saferworld, and local civil society organizations including the Security Research and Information Centre, Nairobi Central Business District Association, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and PeaceNet. The aim has been to develop mechanisms through which the police and local community could work together with the assistance of grassroots organization. This has been done in conjunction with other stakeholders from the statutory sector collectively leading to the Office of the President adopting and then promoting a model of community policing that was considered to be 'appropriate' for Kenya. However, the relationships between local civil society organizations and the police have been fraught with confrontation, and the government has turned a blind eye to the problem.  In some cases, the police have cashed in on the resources delivered by community policing projects and reinforced repression by intensifying harassment against those who do not pay the bribes demanded--as has been the case with community policing initiatives developed with the Nairobi Central Business District Association and the local police.

The case of community policing initiatives in Kenya demonstrates that often the projects fail to address the wider political contexts which have been characterized by practices of clientelism, corruption, and coercion.  Widespread corruption is prevalent in policing organizations, as well as the politicizing of policing approaches and actors. The police in Kenya have never embraced the concept of accountability and some communities in turn feel that they are hopelessly corrupt.  Crime rates are still very high across the board. These challenges, alongside the uneven pace of policing reform, have limited progress in extending community-based policing to other parts of Kenya and improving safety for the rest of Kenya's population.

For more information:


Brogden, Mike. "'Horses for Courses' and 'Think Blue Lines': Community Policing in Transitional Society." Police Quarterly 8, no. 1 (March 2005): 64-98.

Maende, James Ochieng'. "Perceptions of Community Policing: Interrogating a Process." Kenya: Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE), December 2004.

Ruteere, Matuma and Marie-Emmanuelle Pommerolle, "Democratizing Security or Decentralizing Repression? The Ambiguities of Community Policing in Kenya," African Affairs 102 (2003): 587-604.

Saferworld. Implementing community-based policing in Kenya. London: Saferworld, February 2008.


Kenya Police

UN Development Programme in Kenya

Kenyas Administration Police


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South Africa: Inequitable partnerships in community policing

The South African Police Service (SAPS), for decades a paramilitary force charged with maintaining order in a racially stratified state, underwent a process of transformation.  In the aftermath of apartheid, the government of South Africa embraced the democratic approach to community policing, including its principles in the 1992 interim constitution. Several projects were put in place to transform the former authoritarian apartheid police into a democratic force. A major part of this transformation was the establishment of community policing mandated by the South African Police Act of 1995. National guidelines outline community policing principles and rationale, and provide guidance to police officers and administrators on assessing community needs, evaluating capacity, establishing and working with community police forums and implementing a problem solving approach to policing.  Community police forums and partnerships among the police, the community, and businesses have resulted in a diverse array of new programs. For instance, through community visitors' programs, modeled on the British practice of lay visitors, community members would visit jail cells at local police stations to monitor conditions and report detainee complaints to the station head.

The community policing approach was intended to transform the experience of law and order by cultivating trust between the police and the people.  However, studies by South African researchers demonstrated that the expectations of the public and the police were often divergent.  The people within the communities often expected to be included in police initiatives, however the police forces found the forums and negotiations with the members of a community too time consuming, and too soft in the context of increasing crime rates.  Indeed, large sections of the South African Police services were resistant to organizational change which continuously hindered police reform. The police preferred to use the community as the 'eye and ears' for crime control, but then undermined community empowerment by monopolizing information.  Some scholars remarked that the mobilization of the community as a resource for police intelligence, support, and information created an unbalanced relationship, whereby the community became a tool rather than a real partner.  Many of the community policing initiatives failed to change the South African Police Service's traditional organizational culture or improve police-community relations since these initiatives were concerned more with the public image of the police rather than address more critical underlying issues of police accountability and professionalism.

For more information:


Baker, Bruce. "Living with non-state policing in South Africa: the issues and dilemmas," Journal of Modern African Studies 40, no. 1 (2002): 29-53.

Brogden, Michael. "Implementing Community Policing in South Africa: A Failure of History, and of Theory." Liverpool Law Review 24, no. 3 (October 2002): 157-179.

Dixon, Bill. The Globalization of Democratic Policing: Sector Policing and Zero Tolerance in the new South Africa. Cape Town: The Institute of Criminology, University of Cape Town, 2000.

Pelser, Eric. "The Challenges of Community Policing in South Africa." Occasional Paper No 42. Cape Town: Institute for Security Studies, September 1999.

Pelser, Eric, Johann Schnetler and Antoinette Louw. "Not Everybody's Business: Community Policing in the SAPS' Priority Areas." Monograph No. 71. Cape Town: Institute for Security Studies, March 2002.


Honeydew Community Policing Forum

South African Police Service

Institute for Security Studies

Commonwealth PoliceWatch

South-South Crime Prevention Project

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Kosovo: SALW control and community policing

In 1999, when the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) assumed responsibility for the province, it faced a complete policing vacuum.  Policing had previously been the domain of the Serbian police and paramilitaries who left in the aftermath of war.  UNMIK created two new police forces to fill it.  The United Nations Community Policing Unit is an initiative that draws from the UN Security Resolution 1244, assuring the safe and unimpeded return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes in Kosovo, and addresses one of the key Standards for Kosovo (which sets the standards that Kosovo much reach in full compliance with UN resolution 1244 and the Constitutional Framework). In a departure from traditional policing methods, the Community Police officers work closely with all the groups represented within the community, such as ethnic, religious, or youth groups, the municipality and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  In addition, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Kosovo launched the Illicit Small Arms Control Project in August 2002. The projected included a component which linked community policing and civil society empowerment for illicit SALW reduction. The intention was to boost the number of illicit weapons surrendered to the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK)/KFOR weapons collection program operating during the weapons amnesty in September 2003.

The case of Kosovo demonstrates that despite these efforts, many members of the minority communities continue to feel insecure.  For ethnic Albanians the police, had, at least in the recent past, represented a source of repression and violence.  For Kosovo Serbs, they have been unwilling to trust an overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian police force to protect their interests and rights.   The perception of insecurity has prevented many Serbs from returning to their homes. The community policing process was supposed to bring policing closer to the people; however Kosovos security environment remains fragile.

For more information:


Gall Carlotta. "Community Policing Taught by Americans in Kosovo." New York Times, September 8, 1999.

Harris, Frank. The Role of Capacity Building in Police Reform. Pristina, Kosovo: Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Kosovo, 2005.

Peake, Gordon. Policing the peace: Police Reform Experiences in Kosovo, Southern Serbia and Macedonia. London: Saferworld, 25 June 2004.

Stodiek, Thorsten. "The OSCE and the Creation of Multi-Ethnic Police Forces in the Balkans." CORE Working Paper 14, Centre for OSCE Research, Hamburg (2006).


Balkans Justice

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Mission in Kosovo

Kosovo Police

UN Mission in Kosovo

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Papua New Guinea: Weak formal police institutions and community policing

Community policing in Papua New Guinea stems from the lack of capacity, poor community relations, and reactive policing approach that contributed to popular distrust and fear of the police.  In Papua New Guinea, police violence fuels criminal violence in reinforcing the antagonistic encounters.  Lawlessness and violence in many parts of Papua New Guinea in the form of 'raskolism' or tribal fighting has been a growing challenge to the authority of the state. Attempts at implementing community policing in the mid-1980s, suggested that police felt that community policing was just another way to be close enough to control the community"or at least instruct it on how to behave.  The dominance of this retributive approach in contemporary police practices still continues to undermine police-community relations.

Since 1993, initiatives such as community consultative committees have been established to implement community-level initiatives and empower communities to take greater responsibility in mediating minor disputes.  School talk programs and sports initiatives have been used to foster fact-to-face contact between youth and police in order to overcome barriers and improve understanding between two groups.  In addition, neighborhood watch and crime stopper programs have been set up in some areas.  Some provinces have used local level agreements between police and the community to clarify roles and responsibilities and to encourage greater cooperation.  Most of these community policing programs have uneven performance and have been met with limited success.  In earlier projects, there was limited training on gender or human rights issues, nor any effective oversight or accountability over the volunteer civilian auxiliaries.  Amnesty International's 2006 report found that in some cases, the community policing approach reinforced power hierarchies in the communities, trivialized crimes against women, and discouraged women from attempting to access formal solutions.   

For more information:


Amnesty International. "Papua New Guinea Violence Against Women: Not Inevitable, Never Acceptable!" ASA 34/002/2006 (September 2006).

Dinnen, Sinclair. "Community Policing." Papua New Guinea, Criminology Australia 4, no. 3 (January/February 1993).

Dinnen, Sinclair, Abby Mcleod, and Gordon Peake. "Police Building in Weak States: Australian Approaches in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands," Civil Wars 8, no. 2 (2006): 87-108.


Bougainville Community Policing Project

AusAID (Papua New Guinea: Royal PNG Constabulary Development Project)

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Timor Leste: Exported models of community policing

State-building in East Timor (as it was known before independence in May 2002) began soon after the restoration of order following the withdrawal of Indonesia in September 1999. As well as providing transitional administration, including executive policing, the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET) had an explicit police-building mandate and mission from early 2000 onwards. Community policing has been constructed under UN civilian policing (CIVPOL), however, in practice the community policing export process has been reduced to four procedures: Watch schemes, police community forums, problem solving, policing and local foot patrols.  Local communities did not readily embrace community policing in East Timor, a society used to treating the police with deep suspicion. 

The case of East Timor demonstrates that despite six years under multilateral and bilateral supervision, Jose Ramos Horta (at that time Foreign Minister) could observe by June 2006, "The police are very factionalized with too many weapons, and more than 3000 police with so many areas of expertise, like the border police, the rapid response unit, the special force. I don't know how we managed to have all these different units for such a small nation." The institutionalization of divisions within the PNTL along special unit (border patrol, rapid response, reserve) lines had taken place with multilateral and bilateral support or acquiescence as well as at the behest of elements within the Timorese government. These special units very quickly became highly armed once the UN returned executive authority over policing to the Government of Timor-Leste in May 2004. These units became better armed than the military, contributing to inter- and intra-force rivalries. Overall, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that these different political arenas have not been well understood previously by police builders in Timor-Leste.

For more information:


Amnesty International. The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste: A new police service - a new beginning. London: Amnesty International Publications, 2003.

Goldsmith, Andrew and Sinclair Dinnen. "Transnational Police Building: critical lessons from Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands." Third World Quarterly 28, no. 6 (September 2007): 1091-1109.


UN Mission of Support in East Timor

UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste

International Crisis Group: Timor-Leste

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Haiti: Lack of sufficient international support and funding

The case of Haiti's experience with community policing illustrates the need for local ownership and organizational planning that takes into account a realistic budget.  The initial drive to implement community came from the international community and involved a considerable amount of foreign resources and expertise.  However, the eventual wane in international support, diminished funds, and limited manpower, resulted in the demise of Haiti's experiment in community policing.  

Haiti first developed a non-military national police force in 1994 with the US-sponsored intervention. In the months following the intervention, the international community assisted the Haitian government in forming a civilian force, or what is now known as the Haitian National Police (HNP). Indeed, throughout its 194 years of history as a nation, Haiti's police force has always been an arm of the military, serving mainly to protect the government and not the public. A community policing strategy was adopted due to the shortage of police officials (5000 for 7.2 million inhabitants). It was believed that if the police were effectively trained in community policing, officials would be in a position to use the observations, recommendations and assistance of community members to complement their own work and make up for some of their staff shortage. Another reason for the appeal of community policing was that it served as a way to introduce the new police force to a public that had traditionally feared and mistrusted agents of law enforcement. Beginning in Jeremie and Cap Haïtien undertook a series of training sessions based on conflict mediation techniques. The project was supported by the Canadian national police and the UN Civilian Mission in Haiti. The Haitian officials patrolled the area and identified crime problems and patterns.  The community-policing project in Cap Haïtien was dismantled and all of the officials were moved to other jurisdictions following national police redeployment. While the Canadian Police commander in Haiti described community policing as a top priority, a subsequent French commander who took over from the Canadians, saw community policing as just one of many worthwhile modern policing techniques.  The violence from elections held in 2000 contributed to growing unrest in Haiti. In the face of escalating political violence, it was reported that the HNP often stood by passively, largely unresponsive to the mob violence and brutal attacks that were occurring.

For more information:


Davis, Robert, Nicole Henderson, and Cybele Merrick. "Community Policing: Variations on the Western Model in the Development World." Police Practice and Research 4, no. 3 (2003): 285-300.

Donais, Timothy. "Back to Square One: The Politics of Police Reform in Haiti." Civil Wars 7, no. 3 (Autumn 2005): 270-287.

International Crisis Group. Consolidating Stability in Haiti, no. 21 (July 2007).

Stromsem, Janice and Joseph Trincellito. Building the Haitian National Police: A Retrospective and Prospective View, Haiti Papers, no.6 (2003).


UN Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Resource Centre Country Programmes

UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti

UN Civilian Police Mission in Haiti

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