By Milli Lake, London School of Economics
In environments of seemingly intractable conflict, how should we understand the role of state capacity building and security-sector reform in transitions to peace? Prevailing wisdom suggests that a strong state security apparatus mitigates cyclical violence and aids in transitions to predictable, rule-governed behavior. Yet growing attention to police brutality in institutionalized democracies calls this assumption into question. Drawing on a multiyear study of war making and state making in eastern DR Congo, this article interrogates logics of police capacity building, analyzing how and why reform efforts intended to bolster the state’s monopoly on violence frequently fail to curb the unrest they seek to disrupt. I argue that enhancing the coercive capacity of the police can entrench a wartime political order that makes peace more elusive; when police deploy the image of the state toward destabilizing ends they reinforce the institutions of everyday war, undermining the stability a monopoly on violence is intended to build.