Community policing is the idea of policing in partnership with community, and the strategy for implementing this partnership. Beyond this rudimentary definition, there is no common agreement on what community policing entails. Experience of various forms of community policing in different fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS) have had mixed results – there have been some benefits, though the programmes have not been as transformative as hoped, and existing police culture and community relations have often been the critical impediment.
Case studies from Afghanistan, Kenya and Sierra Leone identify benefits from community policing (though the contents of these programmes varied). These include:
- State legitimacy can be strengthened through police-community exchange.
- Trust can be built through community policing and undermined through police militarisation.
- Valuable intelligence insights can be provided from the community members to the police.
- Police can educate and inform the public about specific dangers.
These case studies also identify challenges and lessons learned:
- An existing lack of accountability in the police force culture.
- An existing suspicion and mistrust of the police force.
- A blurring of lines between illegitimate vigilantism and legitimate policing acts.
- Senior managers do not (or cannot) take community policing seriously, at least in comparison to other needs.
- Community-police exchange members are not fully representative of the community.
Some (e.g. Baker, 2008) consider community policing programmes in FCAS as over-ambitious because they require a radical culture change, and instead advocate just trying to get the police system working in some form.