Accepted paper:

Policing and Border Work in Freetown


Peter Alexander Albrecht (Danish Institute for International Studies)
Maya Mynster Christensen (Royal Danish Defence College)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how the police after war in Sierra Leone ended (2002), and subsequent policing strategies, are continuous attempts to claim and reclaim control of Freetown. It uses the notions of borders/bordering to center the analysis, and challenges concepts of hybrid, twilight and plural.

Paper long abstract:

When war ended in Sierra Leone in 2002, the main objective of the government, with international support, was to strengthen the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Sierra Leonean state. One of the primary ways of doing so was 'to introduce effective visible policing', and 'for the police to resume primacy in maintaining law and order'. This paper explores how the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) attempted to reconquer and maintain control of Freetown. On the one hand, this took a material form. Police stations were built and furnished, police officers were equipped and given uniforms, and an armed wing of the SLP was reestablished. On the other hand, doing so was deeply relational, and depended on an ability to co-opt, collaborate, and at times confront an undergrowth of differentiated as well as overlapping security actors, including secret societies, ex-combatants, gangs, and community policing groups. To capture the dynamics of order-making from the perspective of the police, the point of departure of the paper is that urban policing is a border practice. The approach interrogates scholarship of the past decade that emphasizes policing as blurred, hybrid, twilight and plural, because these concepts tend to omit a nuanced understanding of the police officer as a figure of the state that is mandated by law and policies to enforce a particular order. Policing as border work reflects a continuous governmental desire, and attempt via the police, to secure and safeguard by regulating circulations and transgressions of people, things and discourse.

panel Anth04
Urban policing and production of the city