Policing of Peacekeeping Research Paper

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Policing has become an important part of peace and stability operations. This research paper briefly outlines the rise of policing in peacekeeping before highlighting some of the difficulties met in efforts to deploy civilian police personnel to peace and stability operations. Alarmingly, such difficulties have helped motivate increased military and Formed Police Unit (FPU) involvement in policing tasks. The implications of this trend are wideranging, suggesting that limits for military, FPU, and civilian police involvement in operations need to be more clearly defined.

Key Issues

Policing has become an integral part of contemporary peace and stability operations. In 2011, for example, there were: approximately 14,500 UN police (UNPOL) deployed in places as diverse as Timor Leste and Chad (UNDPKO 2011); EU police (EUPOL) could be found operating in the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, and elsewhere; a Participating Police Force (PPF) drawn from the Pacific Islands Forum countries were still policing in the Solomon Islands; and national contingents engaged in other bilateral or multilateral arrangements all around the world. Ideally such policing would be carried out by qualified civilian police personnel, but at times, military personnel have been tasked with components of the police function in some of these operations, and more militarized police units are increasingly being utilized in such operations too. There are a number of practical reasons behind this trend, but there are also weighty normative reasons to be cautious about such developments.

This research paper sketches the rise of the importance of policing in peace operations and considers some of the problems that have developed with the rise of international policing. It then outlines two reasons as to why military personnel and Formed Police Units have increasingly been involved in such tasks: quantity issues and the mission environment. The paper then assesses some of the implications of this particular development, concluding that, despite growing proponents of military involvement in policing, care needs to be taken to avoid any moves toward the militarization of policing in peace operations and more needs to be done to address this situation.

International Policing

The current international policing agenda has a fairly recent history if we exclude the role of colonial policing. Initial post War policing efforts in occupied Japan and Germany focused on rebuilding and tweaking structures that had existed prior, while Cold War peacekeeping policing tasks focused on fairly uncontroversial Support, Monitoring, Advising, Reporting, and Training (SMART) type activities. Policing in peace operations during this phase tended to revolve around monitoring of security situations and ceasefires, as exemplified by the UN deployment to Cyprus. Post-Cold War scenarios, however, saw the UN and other regional or bilateral policing agencies becoming involved in ever more complex arrangements as the need for the restoration of law and order has come to be seen as vitally important for post-conflict peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and peacebuilding (Greener 2009).

The move toward peacebuilding and statebuilding, the convergence of security and development agendas, and increasing challenges to the nonintervention principle have all underwritten developments in the burgeoning field of international policing. This new policing agenda has therefore been driven by the complex demands of peace operations as they have evolved past initial peacekeeping concepts throughout the post-Cold War era. Increasingly comprehensive and extensive attempts to prevent a resurgence of violence in post-conflict sites, and the drive to rebuild states in particular, have helped amplify demands for the implementation of the rule of law and the restoration of law and order – demanding involvement that goes beyond the mere provision of a security pause. In addition to this, post-9/11 demands to prevent or respond to the failure of states, to counter terrorism (and potentially related transnational crime), and to shore up controls over illicit and insurgent activity have all contributed to an increasing demand for police as well as military involvement in international security affairs.

It is due to such developments that policing has become an increasingly important part of peace operations. Instances of such policing may involve either more “active” roles particularly in the stability phase of operations (roles such as those which occur where there is an executive policing mandate whereby external police have the power of arrest in situations where local law and order has broken down), or it can involve a range of other less obviously interventionist roles in later or more permissive stages (roles such as monitoring, training, mentoring, capacity building, or programs to “reform, rebuild, and restructure” existing police capabilities). Executive missions have become somewhat less prevalent but capacity-building programs currently abound – both through UN or regional auspices as well as through bilateral arrangements.

There have been a number of relevant concerns raised about the rise of this policing agenda. There are salient concerns about how police personnel from outside a jurisdiction could possibly hope to successfully police a population or reform a local police service in an area that they are not connected to nor necessarily very familiar with. Further complicating this picture is the fact that one of the major problems with international policing efforts so far has therefore been the quality of that policing provided. Variations in civilian police policies, practices, and abilities have also caused difficulties, as individual police services around the world vary greatly in their expertise, ethos, and capabilities. Problems with a lack of cultural sensitivity and language barriers, as demonstrated in Timor Leste (Peake 2009) or Solomon Islands (Allen 2006), are significant enough, even without the concern that police operating overseas may both be getting paid very well while feeling less ethical constraints and being less accountable to oversight mechanisms. Experiences in Bosnia, Sudan, and elsewhere have demonstrated that the ideals of human rights centered democratic policing where police “protect and serve” the local population have not always been adhered to, with a number of charges of abuse of office, unwillingness to carry out policing tasks, or corrupt, immoral, or illegal behavior being reported.

In spite of these particular concerns, however, international policing efforts seem set to continue well into the future (Bayley 2001). This notion is borne out by contemporary conversations as to possible mission deployments to Libya. Concerns over the international policing project itself have often been elided over as internal and external security agendas increasingly merge (Rubenstein 2010), but more specific criticisms about the way in which such policing efforts are undertaken are being taken into account. Efforts are therefore underway to try to standardize training, improve policing standards to help offset current critique (Rotmann 2009; Goldsmith and Scheptycki 2007). The UN Police Division, in particular, has set about trying to improve the current policing practice of UNPOL personnel through standardizing some pre-deployment training and drawing up new professional standards documents. Questions of local versus international ownership are also being discussed in more detail (Hansen 2008).

These efforts may help mitigate some of the concerns about particular aspects of international policing, such as the quality of the policing that is delivered. However, as noted below, in addition to this quality control problem, there also remain concerns about attaining enough quantity of personnel to actually undertake those policing missions abroad. (This concern over quantity is in fact slightly ironic given that concerns over quality of policing available in international operations have often led police managers to suggest a better job could be done with less but better quality international police personnel (i.e., police personnel who are ethical, professional, trained in the task at hand and fully accountable for their actions)). And, as we will see below, this particular issue has had a significant knock-on effect.

The Quantity Issue

Although numbers of UNPOL personnel have increased exponentially, and a number of national governments such as Australia and regional institutions such as the EU have created specialized policing deployment pools or groups in response to the demand for international policing capabilities, there are still difficulties in deploying enough civilian police to post-conflict settings. Put simply, there are never enough civilian police to deploy on international operations in a timely fashion. In Africa, in 2009, for example, the UN Security Council (UNSC) had authorized the use of approximately: 6,400 police for the UN–AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID); 1,400 for UN Organisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC); 1,200 for the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL); 1,200 for the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI); and 700 for the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), but most of these were operating with major shortfalls in numbers (i.e., around 3,000 of the 6,400 were operating in Darfur, while only approximately 600 were operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo) (Williams 2009). And although a number of efforts have been made in recent years to boost international policing capacity in Africa itself, it has been said that:

Police in general are difficult to recruit to international missions, because they are needed at home. African police are no exception. Many African countries suffer from high crime rates, making it difficult for them to “spare” police for external missions. (Levine 2008, p. 35)

The issue of getting enough police on the ground, particularly within short time frames, therefore continues to bedevil the planners of peace missions and is a product of the place and primary purpose of civilian police. The fact that police are typically being used in a domestic setting, and therefore much planning and resourcing must be in place to release such police, means that those attempting to organize deployments continue to struggle to get enough police into the field.

This issue impacts upon the ability to police in peace operations with civilian police rather than alternative agencies. It is partly this issue of releasing enough numbers of individual civilian police officers for timely international deployment, combined with other mission factors that will be described below, that has encouraged the use of more militarized Formed Police Units (FPUs) or even military personnel for the taking up of policing-type roles as these are institutions that have the ability to deploy mobile units of personnel quickly.

FPUs are often drawn from constabulary forces such as the French gendarmerie or the Italian carabinieri, forces which are paramilitary in terms of their organization and weaponry. The “Multinational Specialist Units” (MSUs) that were developed by NATO for use in Bosnia in order to help bridge military and civilian police capabilities demonstrate the key roles of FPUs as these particular MSUs consisted of:

Police Forces with military status who perform duties including civil disturbance operations. This type of force focuses on the civilian population, employs minimum force and often employs small units to accomplish the mission. However, the MSU is not a replacement for the [Bosnia and Herzegovna] Police Forces and does not conduct criminal investigation beyond the scope of the SFOR mandate. (NATO 2004)

Indeed this quote highlights the fact that some FPUs, such as those drawn from the European continent, have additional policing capabilities such as investigative capabilities. Some other FPUs, however, are predominantly riot control or public order management units only. All generally have more “hardware” immediately at hand than civilian police in that such units have access to a range of riot equipment such as shields, batons, capsicum spray, “flashbangs,” tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets, or shotgun bean bag rounds. FPUs are trained in a range of public order management techniques and can operate as a complete, mobile, expeditionary unit.

The use of FPUs in international peace operations since their introduction in Kosovo and Bosnia has increased markedly. In the UN case, for example, FPUs were only brought into UN missions just prior to 2000, by April 2002, about 1,000 of 7,000 UNPOL deployed were members of FPUs, while in April 2009, that proportion had risen to approximately 7,000 of the 17,000 UNPOL deployed in peace operations (Carpenter 2010). This is in part due to the easily deployable and flexible nature of such units. For example, the EU has developed a specialist group out of four continental forces from Spain, France, Italy, and the Netherlands called the European Gendarmerie Force (EUGENDFOR). The EUROGENDFOR can deploy 800 officers in 30 days, and given its nature “can carry out all types of missions in crisis management operations, taking part in the military phase of a crisis, acting during the transition period from a military to a civil operation, and participating in prevention missions” (Ministeria de Defensa de Espana n.d.) In particular, EUROGENDFOR’s police function can “be developed under civilian or military chain of command,” whereby: during the initial phase of the operation the EGF could “enter the theatre along with the military force in order to perform its police tasks”; during the transitional phase could “continue its mission alone or together with a military force, facilitating co-ordination and co-operation with local or international police units”; and during the military disengagement phase could “facilitate the handing over of responsibilities to civilian authorities and agencies taking part in the co-operation efforts, if necessary” (EUROGENDFOR n.d.). This means that the EU can deploy 800 personnel quickly, with the ability to utilize them in different roles.

In addition to the rise in use of FPUs, the use of military personnel for policing-type activities in international operations has some historical precedent but again, due in part to their deployability and the demands for policing capabilities, has also increased dramatically in recent years. In Panama, for example, “the US military, as the only entity in the country with the capacity to provide the level of stability required, had to deal with the lack of a viable and functioning [host nation] security and [law enforcement] apparatus,” (Jayamaha et al. 2010, p. 21). In Kosovo, the USA used their military police as a constabulary type force. The involvement of military personnel, particularly MPs, in traditional policing roles has continued in recent years, with the US military playing “a key role in law enforcement and related issues, even if not specifically tasked with a law enforcement mandate” (Jayamaha et al. 2010, p. xiii) and with undertaking the tasks of police training, mentoring, and institutional reform – mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan (Keller 2010).

Difficulties in getting civilian police to international deployments have therefore helped encourage the use of FPUs or military personnel in policing peace operations, as both of these types of organizations deploy personnel in larger units that have expeditionary capabilities which are more readily released for service than their civilian police counterparts. However, the complex nature of post-conflict environments has also been a motivating factor in the increased involvement of military and FPU personnel in policing or policing-type activities.

The Permissibility Factor

The complex nature of peace operations has also created concerns about whether or not civilian police can in fact operate in more difficult or “hot” security situations (Bayley and Perito 2010). This concern over the safety of civilian police has at times seemed to require military involvement in policing, particularly if state or private police are unable or unwilling to operate in “nonpermissive” environments (Keller 2010). Perhaps more markedly, the concerns over the ability of civilian police to operate in difficult security environments have also, in particular, again also promoted the use of FPUs in policing peace operations.

Contemporary peace operations can involve significant levels of civil disorder, often involving armed protagonists. The problem with such scenarios is that a “capability gap” is perceived to exist between civilian police and the military when it comes to dealing with this kind of situation. Dziedzic (2003, p. 2) argues that:

Military forces are ill suited to engage in confrontations with civilians because, with the exception of constabulary or military police units, they are generally not trained in the measured use of force, control of riots, negotiating techniques, or deescalation of conflict. Individual [civilian police] are not capable of handling such large-scale, strategic challenges, either.

Instead, FPUs are thought to be a suitable halfway house in helping to police peace operations in that:

International peacekeeping operations have in the past been labelled constabulary missions, calling for gendarme rather than military capabilities, although throughout the Cold War they were conducted primarily by military forces. Since 1996, beginning with the Multinational Specialised Unit in Bosnia, forces like the Italian Carabinieri and the Dutch Marechaussee have been in demand to deal with the combination of organised crime and ethnic extremism that complicates protracted social conflicts. (Mendee and Last 2008, p. 18)

Constabulary forces, then, can seem appealing in certain situations as they are seen as capable of performing both “cooler” military and “hotter” police functions and can be assigned “in either a military or civilian capacity” (Perito 2004, p. 47). EU member states therefore promoted the creation of the EUROGENDFOR as filling a perceived capability gap as well as helping the EU redefine and extend its contributions to peace and stability operations (de Weger 2009). And reports and observation from places such as Timor Leste have suggested that such units, in this case the Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR), have at times been key in the restoration of security and order due to their ability to respond quickly and decisively to small crises to avoid escalation of localized conflict (see LemayHebert 2009). Formed Police Units and military personnel are therefore being used with increased frequency to undertake policing in peace operations for a number of reasons. However, although the status of Formed Police Units is that of “police,” there remain a number of salient concerns both about the increased reliance on FPUs and about the use of military police or other military personnel in some policing-type roles.

Concerns Over The Militarization Of Policing

As Alice Hills has noted, although FPUS “make sense: they work” in terms of: their abilities to control crowds; the fact that they allow the UN in this case to expand the number of contributing countries and to get closer to gender targets in that there are all-female units that can deploy to help fill UN quotas; and because they are cheaper per person, the use of FPUS can also be problematic as “they are paramilitary and their composition and operations blur police/military boundaries” (Hills 2009, p. 309). This is particularly problematic in post-conflict situations where the ideal is to clearly demarcate policing and military roles to help demilitarize society and to exclude military from internal security roles.

This creates a difficult situation. The security environment may require a “harder” approach to policing society so as to maintain order, but the transition to a less militarized environment becomes more difficult to achieve with such approaches in place.

Moreover, in addition to the provision of basic security needs, the institutionalization of a civilian police force that supports, protects, and serves the local population well is also key to broader democratic or human rights–centered approaches to the political and social situation at hand. After all, as Mercedes Hinton and Tim Newburn note in their work on policing developing democracies “if people can have trust and confidence in rules, institutions, and authorities, they are likely to believe that their long-term personal interests will be well served by voluntary compliance with the laws of the state” (2009, p. 4). If more aggressive paramilitary styles of policing inhibit this trust and confidence, the whole peace building or state building project becomes more tenuous.

However, one possible way to work around this problem could be to utilize FPUs for specialist roles in post-conflict sites that are known temporary measures for filling a capacity gap that utilize international units rather than locally sourced personnel. This has been suggested as a way to avoid besmirching the role of local civilian police who are ideally attempting to build legitimacy and consent-based policing models, therefore:

It may be necessary to create a unique police force that can both provide security and also promote a transition to a more stable and accountable environment, thus allowing conventional police forces to focus on developing according to democratic values.. .. They will not make local police responsible for security functions that would otherwise result in their para-militarisation and the use of extra-legal means for controlling crime and restoring order. (Wiatrowski et al. 2008, pp. 1 and 11)

However, this may also be problematic due to the potential for alienation of the population should the timing or operationalization of this phase be misapplied. The fact that FPUs are typically under military command can have ramifications for command and control, and for how they are therefore related to the issue of governance of the mission though, as noted above, they can also be deployed under civilian control.

In addition to these particular concerns about the heavy use of FPUs in peace operations, additional significant disquiet regarding the use of military in law enforcement-type tasks also remains as while they may be in situ with useful capabilities, policing activities are not the core business of the military. Policing skills and mindsets are developed over time and then consolidated on a daily basis through the activities, interactions, and ongoing training of police personnel – such skills or mindsets cannot be internalized quickly, rather this process takes some time to embed to result in a maturity of approach toward complex issues. There therefore remain a number of important distinctions between police and military personnel. In a recent American study, which outlined a number of these important differences between street cops and combat troops, for example, it was found that:

Although both jobs are in protective service occupations, they differ significantly in terms of specific tasks and expectations. While police officers patrol and investigate wrongdoing, combat rifle crewmembers destroy or capture enemies; while police officers inspect, warn and arrest; rifle crewmembers fortify, camouflage, and repair weapons; while police officers report hazards, disperse unruly crowds, and write daily activity reports, rifle crew members place antitank mines and fire machine guns, and so on. (Campbell and Campbell 2010, p. 339)

It is due to these differences in training and ethos that the authors also argue that when military units are required to undertake policing roles, they focus primarily on developing relevant skills, while police taking on more military oriented tasks tends to focus less on skill development and more on attitude adjustment (2010, p. 343).

These constitute reasons to be wary of military personnel playing a wider role in training and mentoring police forces too (Mobekk 2005, pp. 5–6). Overly militarized approaches to training local police forces (including the mentoring of police officers by members of the military) can lead to the police force itself taking on militaristic features and militaristic priorities (Sedra 2006, p. 95; Bayley and Perito 2010, p. 4). Much of the literature therefore demonstrates some level of concern about the involvement of military forces in police training and reform, yet this involvement is still occurring and being encouraged in some situations – particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is in large part capability driven, in that the military tends to have the capabilities or the funds to undertake such a mammoth task, but unless there were significant changes to military forces – changes which would inevitably have a negative impact upon their ability to play their core roles – there will remain a reason to maintain the police–military divide both at home and in operational contexts. This principle is blurred somewhat by the security gap issue that commonly arises in post-conflict situations, and it therefore seems plausible that some military roles might usefully be played in support of law enforcement. However, such roles need to be clearly defined and understood prior to deployment, and clear plans made to withdraw military or more militarized policing units from civilian policing tasks at the first possible moment.


In summation, policing has become a key part of international, regional, and bilateral efforts to stabilize and improve post-conflict situations. Policing in peace and stability operations has also become much broader and deeper in terms of the types of tasks and roles police play. There are a number of critiques about the rise of the international policing agenda, but concerted efforts are underway to try to improve the operational aspects of such policing. The ability to generate enough good civilian police for international deployments has constituted one part of such recent efforts, as the lack of available civilian police has at times helped prompt the use of FPUs and military personnel in undertaking some policing functions which has brought its own concerns.

FPUs are, by most definitions, at least a form of “police” and operational experience suggests that they can provide a useful capability, provided they are used wisely. However, there remain some reservations about their use in post-conflict peace operations in particular, and the use of military personnel to perform policing functions too brings a number of additional problems. In addition to simple capability differences (i.e., the training, equipment, situational awareness, etc., will differ for police versus military personnel), there are a number of broader ramifications. In particular, a major goal of most peace operations is the demilitarization and deescalation of the local environment, as well as the embedding of particular political contexts; therefore, the use of military (or highly militarized FPUs for that matter) for policing functions can blur the democratic ideal of military as external actor and police as internal actor.

The debate over the practical and ethical issues of military or militarized police units undertaking civilian policing in peace and stability operations therefore looks set to continue until a more ideal division of labor can be clearly conceptualized of, internalized by the agencies involved, adequately resourced but, most importantly of all, sited within a more general conversation about the broader ethical and normative shifts that this trend embodies. It is likely that planners of peace and stability operations will look to utilize three main security actors – military personnel (including military police), FPUs, and civilian police – in a more systematic way in future. The limitations, both practical and ethical, of using such agents in particular roles need careful forethought. FPUs deployed for public order maintenance roles, for example, may have a place in plugging the capability gap in less permissive environments, but should be removed as soon as possible to encourage demilitarization of society. Military police may be preferable to infantry for training police in nonpermissive environments, but if military police rather than civilian police are the ones providing training for this reason then the question must then also be asked as to whether or not the situation can actively support a civilian police force at that point in time. Creating a highly militarized police force in a post-conflict or potentially still conflict-ridden environment may simply be creating another destabilizing force in country.

There are practical concerns about securing civilian safety in peace and stability operations that need to be met. However, there are also larger concerns about keeping the military out of internal security roles in burgeoning democracies, or about demilitarizing a traumatized post-conflict environment, that mean that decisions to use agents other than civilian police for internal security must be weighed and measured carefully. Future research needs to look at what patterns of policing have worked in what types of environments, and needs to probe beyond practical concerns to the larger political and normative background against which such technical and operational tenets sit.


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