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Community-Based Policing and Post-Conflict Police Reform

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - ICT4COP (Community-Based Policing and Post-Conflict Police Reform)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2020-11-30

ICT4COP has explored social, cultural, legal, technical and ethical dimensions of post-conflict police reform, especially police-community relations and community-oriented policing (COP).

With a particular focus on gender and youth issues, and education and training systems feeding into police reform, the overall aim for ICT4COP was to bring forward the scholarly and policy debates on emerging COP approaches and innovative information and communication technologies (ICTs) that might contribute to increased trust and sustainable human security for all in challenging, post-conflict contexts.

The project systematically examined 11 cases: Afghanistan and Pakistan in South Asia; Somalia (and Somaliland), Kenya and Uganda in Africa; Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in South East Europe; and Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua in Central America.

In all these regions, the international community spends billions of dollars annually supporting police reform. The challenges of providing this assistance, however, are formidable. Conventional approaches of top-down institutional reform are neither effective nor sustainable. COP holds some promise; however, there is a lack of context-based, in-depth understandings of police-community relations in police reform assistance.

ICT4COP’s overall research questions covered, inter alia, how different actors define COP, what constitutes insecurity for people and the degree to which women, men, children, youth and minorities perceive this differently, and which formal and informal conflict resolution mechanisms exist and how do they work.

Moreover, our ambition is “co-creation of knowledge”. By explorative ethnographic studies, our researchers have acquired knowledge about the issues at stake, but so have our informants, from institutional representatives to local community members. Human security takes center stage with ICT4COP. It has been our overall ambition to contribute to the advancement of human security in one way or another.

In spite of challenges, the project has succeeded in shedding light on human insecurities across the globe, local initiatives that aim to address these insecurities, pitfalls and possibilities of police efforts to partner with communities, and the potential for ICT to bolster these efforts. The insights generated from this work were (and will be) disseminated through academic, policy, and public circles, providing context, nuance, and guidance to those engaged in exploring the possibilities of increasing human security through COP initiatives.
The project has been highly productive, both academically and operationally. Fieldwork conducted in the four regions of focus resulted in valuable findings that have been disseminated among academic and institutional communities in the form of academic articles, policy briefs, training manuals, COP handbooks, digital stories, and more, not to mention further dissemination through regional workshops and the project’s final conference, and through the project’s online magazine and website, which provides public access to these materials.

These outputs were the result of a 5-year effort by the project’s researchers, leaders and coordinators. With four regions under scrutiny, and contextual differences within each region, we have conducted literature reviews, institutional mapping, contextual assessments and fieldwork. In some cases, there was a need to shift some fieldwork to less volatile areas. Nevertheless, a significant amount of data was collected and analyzed, providing the foundation for insights to be observed and communicated through project deliverables.

Our project covered overall as well as case and crosscutting themes and specific research objectives. To assist and further the project’s comparative elements, we developed a database that allows for comparison across research questions and crosscutting themes. Our emphasis on technological development resulted in context assessment and technological scoping reports, put into use by regional research groups collaborating with our technology development work package leader, who has gone on to conduct four technology pilots in each of the focus regions.

Our project is rooted in police practice. We established a Police Experts Network (PEN), comprising police practitioners from national and international services, as well as civil society actors working on policing issues. On a volunteer basis, these individuals serve as project advisors and facilitators. Project partner PHS coordinates the network.

In terms of project operations, with over 35 researchers representing 15 institutions and four continents, it has been imperative for the project’s leadership to facilitate collaboration. For efficient management, the Steering Committee (the Project Leader and the other WP leaders) and Project Coordination Team has met quarterly to discuss progress. The Coordination Team, which consists of the Project Leader and two administrators at the NMBU, meets weekly to plan and implement the Steering Committee’s decisions.

For secure collaboration among researchers and within each work package, the project originally established an online SharePoint workspace. In the fourth year of the project, this was moved to a Microsoft Teams network. Interview transcripts, raw and metadata about our respondents have been stored on a secure data storage system. This is not merely a legal obligation; it is an ethical imperative. Our project has an elaborate ethics approach, complete with ethical guidelines and methodological principles, an internal ethics committee, and an external independent ethics monitoring board consisting of two academic experts. We have also developed Ethical Guidelines for our researchers, which are based on national and international standards. By strictly adhering to these guidelines, we are committed to a ‘do no harm’ code of professional conduct.

Exploitation of results has also been taken into careful consideration; the partners involved in the project have submitted commitments to exploitation activities that maintain, further develop, and utilize the products and knowledge generated by the project. These specific institutional commitments include activities of research, education, networking, continued dissemination, and online activities. In the interest of further exploitation, the project partners developed a formal detailed business plan as a potential expansion to this plan. Finally, in efforts to secure IPR, the project has also applied to the Norwegian Industrial Property Office for a trademark of the project title, logo, and services offered.
As highlighted in our publications, COP and police reform are not straightforward. However, our research moves towards academic and policy innovation in this complex and varied field, providing relevant guidance for policy makers as they implement security sector reform programs. Through their co-production approach, researchers have built networks at national and international levels allowing for learning and dissemination of research results. Additionally, our eHandbook and eLearning programs provide opportunities for findings to be applied through the work of international police advisors and policymakers, and our technology pilots have identified opportunities for use in community policing.