Paradoxes of postcolonial police-building: Solomon Islands

Sinclair Dinnen*, Matthew Allen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    28 Citations (Scopus)


    Drawing upon recent fieldwork, we examine the paradoxical effects of the institutional transfer and capacity-building approach adopted by the ongoing regional intervention in post-conflict Solomon Islands. Taking the mission's substantial police-building component as our focus, we argue that this engagement has done little to extend the functional authority of the local police in rural Solomon Islands and has, moreover, induced unsustainable levels of dependency on external assistance. We also argue that this engagement has inadvertently reinforced lack of public confidence in the local police, thereby undermining its legitimacy. The privileging of institutional capacity building and failure to engage with community-based providers of policing and justice services in rural localities has resulted in the neglect of critical issues of legitimacy and the extension of administrative power which are integral to the larger state-building process. In considering how these shortcomings might be addressed, we explore contemporary nostalgia for older administrative systems that appeared capable of sustaining vertical linkages between central government and the rural periphery, as well as horizontal linkages between state and local legal orders. We sketch the diverse configurations of current policing and justice practices in rural areas and the strong desire for greater engagement between the different orders and providers. Through reference to a nascent community policing project, we canvas some alternative imaginings of how Solomon Islands institutions might be transformed to produce more effective and sustainable policing and justice outcomes for rural-based citizens and that can simultaneously advance the larger state-building agenda.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)222-242
    Number of pages21
    JournalPolicing and Society
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


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