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What Is Policeness? On Being Police in Somalia

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 54 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2014 Pages: 765-783
Alice Hills
Date Published
September 2014
19 pages
Based on the experiences of Somalia's police forces, this article uses the concept of "policeness" to explore the essence of what police are, what makes for a police force, and what brings it recognition as such.
Overall, there is something universally distinctive about police organizations, and police are best understood as a project that reflects political and social processes within unequal fields of power. Ultimately, "policeness," which alludes to the symbolic and coercive functions associated with police, is a matter of perception. Somalia is commonly regarded as the paradigmatic collapsed state; however, it is actually managed by a variety of security and administrative entities, each of which has its own police. The various entities are linked ethnically and economically, but have different levels of stability and styles of security governance, which refers to the roles, processes, and interactions through which decisions are made and authority exercised. Somalian policing has symbolic and coercive functions associated with the idea of what constitutes policing under specific forms of state-based organization, capacity, or activity. Somalia police officers may align many of their practices with international policing models, but they operate in a rule-based society characterized by chronic insecurity, legal pluralism, and limited statehood. This means that policing in Somalia is a reflection of the agenda of those in power, which has virtually no constitutionally based stability or norms for order and disorder, other than what serves the interests of those who control the police. Police are not accountable to the community as a whole, but rather to those who are currently in power. 62 references