Community Policing in Timor-Leste
As citizens of the newest independent nation in Asia, the people of Timor-Leste have high hopes for the Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste (PNTL) as a vanguard of peace, stability, and justice. However, the PNTL is still a nascent institution with limited resources, institutional knowledge, experience, and capacity to adequately address local security needs. The Asia Foundation’s experience supporting the PNTL in Timor-Leste since 2008 has shown that crime in Timor-Leste can be greatly reduced, and in many instances prevented by fostering more effective police-community partnerships and cooperation. In 2009, The Asia Foundation and the PNTL formed a partnership to undertake a pilot project in Conflict Mitigation through Community-Oriented Policing (CMCOP), funded by the USAID. The one-year pilot highlighted the importance of creating mutual engagement between citizens and the police to understand each other’s role in maintaining security. In 2011, the project was expanded into a three-year program targeting all 13 districts in Timor-Leste, with support from USAID and the New Zealand Aid Programme. The HAKOHAK Polisia ho Komunidade (Embrace Communities and the Police) program is helping the PNTL develop the concept of Community Police Councils (CPCs) to implement the principles of community policing, by providing training to council members on setting safety and security agendas and improving coordination. The program’s activities reduce resentment, apathy, and opposition to police in target communities and discourage the public from taking the law into their own hands. At the same time, these activities help bring the PNTL closer to communities and help identify and resolve community problems in a proactive rather than reactive manner.