Urban policing in the democratic Third World: A comparative study of Botswana and Mauritius

Date of Completion

January 2002


Sociology, Criminology and Penology




The evolution of modern policing in liberal Western democratic states is by now well documented. Absent a tradition of comparative criminological scholarship, a similar scrutiny of policing in underdeveloped areas has been largely neglected. ^ The historical evidence suggests that Western policing underwent a transition from a forceful supervision of public order which served to monitor lower class communities (“class control”), to a form of institutional conduct which emphasized the prevention and control of criminal felonies against persons and property (“crime control”). This transformation coincided with the maturation of Western industrial capitalism during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and was part of an evolving bureaucratic rationalism, which accompanied that process. ^ This study seeks to determine whether, during the three decades since independence, a similar pattern of policing has been reproduced in two underdeveloped countries (Mauritius and Botswana) that share similar socioeconomic features and where certain conditions (a thriving economy and sustained democratic practices) approximate the Western model. By comparing these two African cases this study aspires to explore whether “class control” policing emerged commensurate with rational-legal forms of social control and whether a shift to a concentration on crime prevention is contingent on the consolidation of a capitalist infrastructure. ^ Summary measures of socioeconomic change are employed to document structural transformation. An analysis of official arrest data and newspaper accounts of police operations reveals a general rendering of institutional behavior and unstructured interviews with a sample of former and current police officers are also conducted and analyzed to uncover personal impressions of longitudinal changes in enforcement priorities. ^ By exploring the relationship between social organization and the pattern of social control this research seeks to shed light on the prospects for democracy in the developing world and suggest a framework for reasoned policy initiatives regarding the likelihood of democratic policing based on social context. ^