Post-Conflict Policing: The Experience of New Zealand Police in Solomon Islands
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The thesis explores the roles and reponsibilities of New Zealand Police deployed under the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, established in 2003. Their work under this banner continues a growing trend that sees the deployment of constabulary police officers to post-conflict societies to re-establish order and build a framework for sustainable peace. Where the existing literature considers the normative dimensions of this trend, this thesis looks more closely at the micro-level interaction between international police officers and citizens of post-conflict societies. In particular, it asks questions about the suitability and sustainability of the community policing model; a model that has developed over several decades in an internal law-enforcement context but is relatively new to the peace-building sphere. The research focus is drawn from the extensive literature on the use of community policing in domestic contexts but is adapted in order to speak back to the literature on peace-bulding and international policing. The everyday experiences of New Zealand Police were deployed to Solomon Islands were explored through semi-structured interviews. In particular, the thesis found that officers experiences little of the ethnic conflict that had, according to international media, been the hallmark of the Tension period and that they showed a nuanced understanding of the social and political climate of the communities they operated in. It further found that, while officers were often keen to show respect for local tradition and local power structures, they also saw that in some cases these structures needed to be broken down for the safety and well-being of local people, particularly women and children. The New Zealand style of community policing sometimes clashed with that other contingents but overall the strength of the personal and professional relationships they had with those they worked with was the most decisive factor influencing their experience. While much of the discussion centres on the community model, the findings highlight the importance of people in the peace-building process. The model played an important role in facilititating a broad-based policing initiative in Solomon Islands but it was the personal investment by individual officers going about their everyday work that was often crucial in breaking down the barriers to peace. The finding points to the importance of empowering communities in exercising ownership over the peace-building process and the role that police officers from another country can play in encouraging that process.