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The Role of Capacity-Building in Police Reform


This book is about the nature of police capacity-building and its specific role in support of the process of reform in police organizations in transition states, particularly those in a post-conflict period.


Policing is not an exact science. This is not to say that there is a complete absence of principles and patterns in the many thousands of organizations around the world that describe themselves as 'police', merely that there is no universal consensus on the nature of policing. In 2001 the Council of Europe produced the European Code of Police Ethics (ECPE) in response to the need to establish 'common European principles and guidelines for the overall objectives, performance and accountability of the police to safeguard security and individual's rights in democratic societies governed by the rule of law.'

This document marks an important step forward in achieving a broader consensus about the values and standards required of a police organization in a modern and democratic society. Recognising the role of the police in helping to sustain the values of democracy in modern states, the Code provides a framework of values and standards for reforming organizations throughout Europe and beyond. At the heart of the Code stands the principle that policing in a democratic society is characterized by an organization that upholds the rule of law, both in the sense of enforcing the law of the state and thereby securing public tranquillity, and at the same time only acting within the constraints of the law and thereby respecting the rights and freedoms of all citizens.

This principle is fundamental to the meaning and purpose of policing in a democracy - those who apply the law must be subject to that same law. In this way, the condition of a modern democracy may be appraised by observing the behaviour of its police officers. It was the stated intention of the Committee of Ministers that the Code should be used as a guiding framework for member States when considering the process of police reform.

Police reform is an issue of concern for many organizations throughout the world. However, the precise context of police reform that concerns this book is that which faces police organizations in transition states, particularly those that are in a post- conflict phase. Police reform is acknowledged as a pivotal element in the development of a stable democracy, the creation of political and social structures that reflect the values and needs of society, and the evolution of an open market economy.

In order to explain the role of capacity-building in police reform, it is first necessary to characterise the nature of police reform itself and, in basic terms, the process whereby it is achieved. What is offered is a paradigm of police reform inspired by the guidance of the ECPE and broadly based on the experience of police organizations in the former Yugoslavia and other European states. It is readily admitted that, as with policing in general, there is no single remedy to reform. What follows is an attempt to condense into a meaningful framework a number of successful strategies in achieving those reform goals that enjoy a degree of consensus among the various 
stakeholders of the transition states of Europe.

The key points of the chapter can be summarised as follows:

  • Identifying the key principles that underpin democratic policing
  • Identifying the general meaning of reform in transition states
  • Identifying how reform is initiated and
  • Describing in outline, the process of reform based on a Policing Plan.