A More Strategic U.S. Approach to Police Reform in Africa

Highlighting the urgent, incomplete task of reforming African police services

U.S. strategic stakes in Africa have expanded in the last 15 years, with growing awareness among policymakers and the American public that developments in Africa can have direct and significant impact on U.S. economic, political, and security interests. The last decade has seen strong bipartisan support for initiatives that seek to accelerate African development, institution building, and security sector capacities. Within that period, however, few policymakers have chosen to emphasize the vital role that Africa’s police can play in delivering—or undermining—this agenda. Overseas police support is a component of both Security Sector Reform and democratic institution building, yet the U.S. security agenda has largely focused on bolstering militaries while democracy strengthening efforts have tended to favor nonsecurity institutions. Civilian policing has tended to fall through the cracks.

CSIS convened a working group of experts from the U.S. Congress, government, universities, and the nonprofit sector to discuss the challenge of police reform in Africa and come up with recommendations for the U.S. administration to tackle it more effectively. This report details the working group’s exchanges and recommendations.

Richard Downie