The Politics of the "Unfinished Business": Bosnian Police Reform

Key Points:

  • Police reaction to recent protests in Bosnia has called attention to stalled police reform. This brief provides a historical overview detailing the evolution of police structures and the reform attempts and provides recommendations for long-term effective police reform.
  • After Bosnia’s 1992–1995 war, police reform became a crucial element of security sector reforms. The police were accused of human rights violations, a lack of proper training and over-militarization. There have been further allegations of criminality and corruption  within the force and a lack of cooperation between different police agencies, all resulting in an unsustainable policing environment.
  • Initial reforms to obtain state-wide standards through centralization were complicated by the politicization of the reforms and were perceived as an attempt to assimilate the divided state. The result is a fragmentation of police services and disagreement between the three main political blocs within the country.
  • Recommendations to improve the policing environment and build trust in the police services include curbing political interference in policing matters, increasing engagement with civil society and formalizing a system to enable reporting of public concerns and complaints.

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