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.
Laura Bacon drafted this case study on the basis of interviews she conducted in Monrovia, Liberia, in June and July 2011, interviews conducted by Arthur Boutellis in Monrovia in May 2008, and text prepared by Christine MacAulay. Case published April 2012. A companion piece, “Building Civilian Police Capacity: Post-Conflict Liberia,” addresses broader police reforms from 2003 to 2011.
Associated Interviews: David Beer, Paavani Reddy
UN Security Council
Building a Reform Team and Staff
Getting the News Out/Managing Expectations
Extending services to insecure or remote areas
Non-state security actors
Country of Reform