Instead, the ICT4COP project encourages the development of two-directional partnerships, where various actors – from the police as from civil society at local levels – work together in reciprocal relationships to prevent and manage any incidents of insecurity at local levels.
To act in a reciprocal partnership implies moving beyond the instrumental view of partnership (i.e. as a means of accomplishing something specific, like a police objective) into genuine partnerships. In addition to a reciprocal obligation, genuine partnerships are typically associated with long-term commitment, joint agenda setting (i.e. identification of problems and their solutions), mutual responsibilities and trust. While instrumental partnerships often promote the status quo, genuine partnerships have the potential to be transformative.
The UNPOL definition is not alone in conceptualizing a one-dimensional type of partnership. There is a tendency across sectors and scales toward top-down partnerships – with the leading agency controlling the finances and the terms, including inviting other partners into the partnership. This is so whether it be between international and local organizations or between police and communities. Partnerships currently exist on a highly uneven playing field, where power imbalances between those involved complicate the relationship.
Recognizing power relations is sometimes difficult as they can be exercised in different ways. Acknowledging and identifying power relations between police and communities is nevertheless critical in order to ensure that relations are reciprocal and build trust.