This article analyses the implementation of a Swiss community policing model in Sarajevo Canton, Bosnia-Herzegovina. It accounts for how officers from one community policing unit were able to facilitate cultural legitimation for their community policing role within their sector by linking it to established, subcultural definitions of police work. This was achieved through the officers interactions with colleagues and supervisors as well as their partnership-building activities in the community. The difficulty experienced by a second unit which attempted to replicate their success further indicates that rank-and-file police officers may also represent an obstacle to bottom-up reform. The article makes a contribution to a growing body of research on police reform in developing and transitional countries by providing empirical support for the idea that the agency of enthusiastic and perceptive officers can act as a mechanism for cultural transformation. This in turn may establish a foundation for developing contextually appropriate models for locally responsive policing in developing and transitional countries. (c) 2014 (c) 2014 Taylor Francis.