Building Strategic Capacity in the Police: Sierra Leone, 1998-2008


Sierra Leone’s police service had a reputation for abuse and corruption even before the 1991-2002 civil war that slashed its numbers by a third and all but destroyed its infrastructure. Taking office in 1996, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah set a high priority on police reform to ensure stability for postwar reconstruction and economic development. The United Kingdom, acting through the Commonwealth, was the primary benefactor, providing equipment, trainers and even an inspector general to lead the service during the first years of reform. By 2008, the Sierra Leone police featured strong and capable senior leadership, improved capacity for criminal investigations, and a positive relationship with the Sierra Leonean public. Although concerns about the sustainability of these reforms and the feasibility of additional changes remained in 2008, the development of the Sierra Leone Police during the preceding decade was an example of successful post-conflict police reform in a West African state.

Jonathan Friedman wrote this policy note based on interviews by Arthur Boutellis in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in May 2008. Case published November 2011.

Associated Interview(s):  Keith Biddle, Robert Bradley, Kadi Fakondo, Osman Gbla, Garry Horlacher, Adrian Horn, Sheka Mansaray

strategic planning
strategic management
gender-based violence
internal management
UN policing
partnership boards
international support
community relations
Focus Area(s)
Accountable Policing
Critical Tasks
Community policing
External accountability
Internal accountability
Core Challenge
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
Sierra Leone
Case Studies
Jonathan (Yoni) Friedman