Building an Inclusive, Responsive National Police Service: Gender-Sensitive Reform in Liberia, 2005-2011
Focus: Getting the News Out/Managing Expectations, Building a Reform Team and Staff, Civil Service, Accountable Policing
Topics: Managing Diversity, Extending services to insecure or remote areas, Community Policing, Recruitment, Non-state security actors, Training
Type: Case Studies
Author: Laura Bacon
Keywords: Resolution 1325, UN Security Council, community, building trust, violence, recruitment, training, capacity building, staffing, mainstreaming, women, gender, Liberia
After Liberia’s 14-year civil war ended in 2003, the government began to overhaul its security sector. The Liberia National Police (LNP), whose capacity was ravaged and reputation tarnished during the war, sought to improve its services and build the community’s trust. Gender-sensitive reform at the LNP was high on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s agenda, given low numbers of women in the security sector and high rates of sexual and gender-based violence. Between 2005 and 2011, LNP reformers Beatrice Munah Sieh, Asatu Bah-Kenneth, Vera Manly and others led innovative efforts to make the police service more inclusive and responsive. In particular, they sought to recruit female officers at a rapid pace and to launch a Women and Children Protection Section. By July 2011, although the police service still identified shortcomings in capacity and the justice system more broadly, it could boast an increased percentage of female officers (17%, compared with 2% in 2005), 217 specially trained officers deployed in 52 Women and Children Protection Section units across Liberia, more women in leadership positions, and improved responsiveness and public image. This case chronicles police reform in a post-conflict setting, examining the challenges of promoting diversity, building capacity, conducting community outreach and awareness, and delivering services to remote areas.