Rethinking Police Reforms

For the police, reform is in many ways the “nature of the beast”. In many countries, police reform is an ongoing process. This normalcy of police reform is important to remember when trying to understand or support such processes or when trying to promote COP. In most counties there are recent or on-going initiatives to improve or reform parts of the police. This includes efforts to promote Community Oriented Policing. Therefore, in order to implement COP, we have to understand police reform processes.  

Too often, police reform is misunderstood as neutral and purely technical in character. In practice, however, it is a highly political endeavor. Read more here. Reform is about changing the way things are done. Different reforms affect different people in different ways. Some people may gain from the process, while others will lose long-held privileges. Inconsistencies between intentions and results are thus both natural and inevitable, and there will always be a level interpretation and modification as various actors translate polices and plans into practical implementation. A level of resistance or foot-dragging is also common. Local resistance and questions about the legitimacy of reforms may be triggered by lack of local ownership to the reform.

While national police reform processes are the norm, post-conflict police reforms are often assisted by international agencies. Over the past decades, various international agencies have executed programs to assist police reforms in post-conflict areas as part of an effort to enhance international peace and security. These efforts are increasingly integrated into broader international conflict resolution and peace building operations, including the promotion of liberal democracy, market-based economic reforms, and the formation of institutions associated with modern states.

We distinguish here between two main approaches to police reform:


Consult here for information on UN and EU police reform assistance.