Libya Police Reform

Police reform is a difficult and challenging process to implement irrespective of where it’s taking place, but delivering it in a fragile or post-conflict environment is even more of a challenge.

This is the situation Rose Partners faced when it came to launching a police reform programme in Libya. Understandably, it’s not a country you can operate in without risk, and there’s a complex political environment to navigate in order to deliver true police reform. Libya is still establishing itself as a democracy – Colonel Gaddafi’s dictatorship ended 10 years ago – and they have recently moved from the Government of National Accord to the Government of National Unity. Negotiations are progressing with the aim of holding the first elections in December this year.

Structural, government and police reform

This wider governmental change is a key factor in effective police reform. If democratic elections can successfully go ahead, the relationship between the political class and the police will change. The democratically elected Government will set the budgets and the priorities, with the police held to account in delivering on those priorities.

‘The police service still requires a significant restructure, with levels of training and new levels of responsibility to manage the demands. This will be a challenge considering it’s a police service which is high in numbers compared to similar police structures, and under-resourced,’ commented Rose Partners’ Strategic Advisor Tony Mole, former Head of the North West Counter Terrorism Unit. ‘Their police numbers per capita are huge and they need to become more efficient, which will require a lot of investment in capacity and capability building.’

As part of Rose Partners’ senior advice team, which collectively boasts a wealth of experience in policing strategies in the UK and abroad, Tony has been involved in reviews of Libyan policing and Rose’s activities in the country, putting forward a number of recommendations in regards to what is required to achieve true police reform. The team has been able to produce a senior leadership development programme for the client and, despite only commencing in October 2020, was completed in March 2021.

‘The combination of police, political and structural reform means there are a lot of moving parts to be mindful of in the project,’ Tony added. ‘These all need to work symbiotically because the only people that can reform the Libyans are themselves – we can only help and guide them by using some of our principles and experience in delivering reform programmes.’

Libyan appetite for change

The police reform programme put together for the MoI is completely bespoke but has been devised on the back of significant expertise and experience in implementing reform programmes both domestically and in fragile or post-conflict zones abroad.

A concern when entering these environments can be the reception of the local people, particularly when working on a programme which is going to significantly change their lives. However, we can only sing the praises of those we’ve dealt with in Libya, who have all been very cooperative and enthusiastic towards actioning this change.

Tony commented: ‘It has been humbling to meet fellow police officers who were keen to learn and engage with modern, human rights-based policing practices. They have all been through a lot of struggles and changes with very little training after many years under a dictatorship.

‘Everybody we’ve engaged with, from senior Libyan officials through to the interpreters, have all been thirsty for change. They want peace, they want to work and make a living, and they want to become an internationally recognised police service.

‘There’s a lot of work to be done and it will take a number of years to deliver, but they’re perfectly capable of doing it and they’ve recognised that they need help in order to head in that direction.’

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