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Community-Based Policing and Post-Conflict Police Reform

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ICT4COP (Community-Based Policing and Post-Conflict Police Reform)

Reporting period: 2016-06-01 to 2018-05-31

ICT4COP aims to explore 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 is 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 examines 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. Community-based policing (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 cover, 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, and this is a critical underpinning of our project, our ambition is “co-creation of knowledge”. By explorative ethnographic studies, our researchers acquire knowledge about the issues at stake, but so do our informants, from institutional representatives to local community members.
Human security takes center stage with ICT4COP. It is our overall ambition to contribute to the advancement of human security in one way or another. This is why we study police reform and community-oriented policing in post-conflict societies
The first half of ICT4COP has been highly productive, academically and operationally. Substantial fieldwork has been conducted in all four regions, resulting in some valuable, although still preliminary, findings, which we have shared with the wider academic and institutional communities. Our operational infrastructure is up and running, including a functioning Project Steering Committee, an online collaboration room for researchers, and an increasingly stronger Police Experts Network that contributes manifestly to our research efforts.
Our project covers overall as well as case and crosscutting themes and specific research objectives. To assist and further the project’s comparative elements, we have developed a comprehensive database that allows for in-depth comparison across overall research questions and crosscutting themes.
The theoretical foundation of our work was first discussed at the project’s kick-off seminar in August 2015 in a presentation of power dynamics. This has since been elaborated in an academic article and popularized in a blog article for the project’s online magazine.
Our project is rooted in police practice. We have 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, numbering over 50 at the time of writing, serve as project advisors and facilitators. The Norwegian Police University College coordinates the network.
Our emphasis on technological development has resulted in a context assessment and technological scoping reports, put into use by regional research groups in close collaboration with our technology development work package leader.
With four regions under scrutiny, and vast contextual differences between the cases within these, we have conducted literature reviews, institutional mapping, contextual assessments and fieldwork in all of the case countries. In some cases, there has been a need to shift some fieldwork to less volatile areas. Nevertheless, a significant amount of data has been collected and undergoing analysis, with some of the results already shared in meetings with local, national and international stakeholder, as well as in articles and policy briefs.
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 ensure that management is smooth and collaboration easy. For efficient management, the Steering Committee, which consists of the Project Leader and the other WP leaders, as well as the Project Coordination Team at the NMBU, has met quarterly to discuss progress and made ongoing decisions via email. 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 collaboration among researchers and within each work package, the ICT4COP has established an online SharePoint collaboration room. Our SharePoint room is secure and only open to our researchers, meaning that we can collaborate extensively within this system.
Interview transcripts, raw and metadata about our respondents and the like are stored on a properly state-of-the-art secure data storage system. The secure storing of data 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.
Much of the data collected is at this point under analysis, however, we still see significant progress towards academic and policy innovation. As highlighted in our publications, community-oriented policing and police reform are not straightforward. With our preliminary findings, we have identified many caveats, but also opportunities, within the application of technology in community policing. Such findings are relevant for policy makers and development aid donors as they provide information about how to implement security sector reform programs. Using a co-production approach, researchers actively build networks at national and international levels both to learn but also to inform them of the ongoing research and gage their interest and commitment in using the results in their work. This includes national policing institutions, international donor communities supporting police reform processes, local civil society organizations and community activists. We have already seen a significant rise of interest in the research from this process, with researchers invited to participate in policy panels and expert meetings to share our work and findings. We anticipate that our impact will continue in the next period, as we learn more from our pilot studies and develop, for example, curricula and applications that incorporate our findings.