Community policing in Mozambique
Reducing crime – but doing it 'the dirty way'?
In many third world countries, 'community policing' has become a significant element of efforts to improve public safety in poor rural and urban areas. Based on empirical studies in Mozambique, Project Researcher Helene Maria Kyed shows that community policing can contribute to reduce crime, but does not necessarily change everyday policing practices. Community policing members are either drawn into doing the 'dirty work' by the state police, or on their own mimic problematic state police practices, such as torture and corruption. Moreover, partnerships between state and non-state policing actors coexist with new forms of competition between the same actors, who vie for power, prestige and resources, often in an illicit manner. Helene Kyed argues that policies on community policing need to take serious the kind of competition over power that prevails in everyday policing, and find new ways of ensuring a broader representation of local citizens in their models.
Since 2001, community policing has been promoted in Mozambique by creating community policing councils that build partnerships between citizens and the state police. The aim is not only to bring down crime levels, but also to reduce human rights abuses in police work and to make the state police more accountable to the public. The question is whether these globally-supported aims hold water in practice. The present DIIS Working Paper (see box) takes a cautious view and argues for a careful assessment of how community policing is actually appropriated in practice in different contexts.
The development of community policing is not unique to Mozambique; it is reflected globally. Since the 1990s, it has enjoyed widespread popularity as a philosophy and strategy of 'democratic policing'. It promises to reduce crime and improve state-citizen relations by substituting centralized, paramilitary-style state policing for active citizen inclusion.
An earlier version of the paper was presented at the 28-30 April International Conference in Maputo "State and Non-State Public Safety and Justice Provision. The Dynamics of Legal Pluralism in Mozambique." The conference was organized by DIIS and the Mozambican research centre, CESAB8 (see box).