Context Column


Multinational Police Assistance: Foreign Experts in Conflict-Affected States

Policing increasingly takes places across borders, and conflict-affected states are a main site of international policing. In such states, foreign police experts undertake a variety of activities, including supporting recipient police agencies through the delivery of training, equipment, and advice on institutional reform. While research on international and transnational policing has grown, little is known about how members of multinational police missions and programs implement their mandates and about underlying causes. A better understanding of police assistance is also needed because of its potential to alter state-society relations; it is a deeply political, not merely technical, form of intervention.

This project, funded by the German Research Foundation over a period of three years (2018-2021), seeks to shed light on the role of police experts as global governors. Located in the field of International Relations and security studies, and also drawing on insights from police studies, criminology, and organization studies, the project examines, first, the behavior of police experts. We analyze how these experts train, equip, mentor and advise, and institutionally reform police services in fragile contexts, as well as conflicting international and transnational agendas such as with regard to levels of police militarization. As its second objective, the project explores the causal mechanisms underlying the behavior of police experts, showing how their institutional environments, especially the police agencies seconding personnel to foreign missions and programs, govern the implementation of police assistance on the ground.

With an empirical focus on EU operations and projects in the Western Balkans and post-Soviet countries, the project contributes to a better understanding of police assistance and reform. More generally, the project reveals the micro-processes of global governance and state-building.