Democratic police reform models dominate discussions on police reform in non-Western contexts. Researchers and practitioners often attribute reform failings to personnel and institutional failure within police organisations, the weakness of formal external institutions of control and accountability, lack of inclusion of, or customisation to, hybrid forms of governance or a failure to address social injustice more broadly. Drawing on analysis of political and police transformation in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Russia this paper suggests low state capacity and authoritarian and neo-patrimonial politics present more prominent barriers to DPR. In low capacity states police pay is insufficient and bureaucratic control weak. Formal reforms have little influence over the police who are influenced by organised crime and corrupt police leaders and politicians. Authoritarian and neo-patrimonial elites often stymie reform initiatives which undermine their political and economic interests. Full DPR is thus unlikely without increasing state capacity and political elite will and capacity to democratise control of the police. But contrary to democratisation being key to successful reform the relationship between regime type and reform outcomes is more nuanced. Partial reform is possible where a partially authoritarian/neo-patrimonial regime has the ability to improve police effectiveness and clampdown on corruption and prioritises these.