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Complex mandate: The multifaceted role of international policing

The first decades of international peace and security operations were very much the domain of militaries. But the end of the Cold War brought with it a change in the nature of ‘conflict’ and traditional notions of intervention.

Insurgent and criminal groups, largely invisible until then and emboldened by local, regional and even international security gaps, emerged to exert their influence. Motivated by opportunities to fill political and power voids, and exploit economic weakness, they were prepared to use terror and force of arms to impose their will.

Intra-state conflict replaced inter-state confrontation, characterized by religious and sectarian violence, human rights abuse – even genocide – guerilla-war like tactics and horrendous acts of terrorism, child warriors, systemic corruption, and organized crime in alliances of convenience with insurgent groups, woven into the very fabric of local government.

Almost universal in this new era is the disintegration of justice systems, and a complete breakdown in the Rule of Law.

The need to establish effective justice systems to sustain secure environments necessitated an evolution in international policing. Rare are the days of police as observers and monitors in post-conflict environments.

Today, complex mandates begin even as conflict continues, and often include – simultaneously – policing operations to re-establish the rule of law and training programs required to build capacity to establish sustainable justice. This multifaceted role can run the gamut – from patrol and community policing programs to major crime and counter terror investigation, to order maintenance and anti-crime tactical operations.

This presents a long list of important questions and new challenges – questions that are relevant whether we speak of Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Congo, or any international mission.

Where do the resources come from? Few countries have trained and equipped civilian police to deploy abroad without impacting domestic policing capacity. And often, these resources are essentially paramilitary security forces, not the community policing experts, highly trained investigators, or forensic experts we associate with modern policing in democratic states. It is also a disturbing reality that many of the policing ‘peacekeepers’ in this new conflict environment have no more modern police training that the local forces that they are sent to develop.

Then there are the questions that arise when police and military collaborate in the same conflict environment. The differences in organizational cultures, traditional roles, training, and equipment between military forces and civilian police remain quite stark. How do we define the common security threat? How do we face an enemy that may be like a criminal organization in structure but militaristic or guerrilla-like in armament and tactics? Where and at what level are joint operations necessary, and how are they managed? What is the right balance of international military and police resources?

Even more fundamental, how do we bridge the gap between military ‘rules of engagement’ and the policing doctrine of ‘use of force policy’? Where do the ‘rules of engagement’ leave off, and the Rule of Law begin? This can be particularly sensitive where paramilitary ‘formed police units’ are included in the police operational capacity.

How best do we deal with the absence of a functioning, transparent and accountable justice system? Is there a contradiction in tasking police with operational roles in its absence, while at the same time asking them to develop local resources to operate only within such structures?

Finally, there are sensitive questions about the absolute need of police intelligence to lead police operations. The need is obvious where insurgency and criminal activity are intertwined, and invariably linked to corrupt officials at some level, but obviously sensitive where ‘police intelligence’ has been used without accountability by illegitimate regimes to gain and retain political power.

Lessons from Haiti
The police mission of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah) was and is considered to be one of the most complex ever undertaken – a hybrid mandate involving up to 45 countries to establish security and myriad tasks of redeveloping the Haitian National Police.

The mission was challenged by the usual administrative ‘start-up’. Recruitment and deployment of human and physical resources was slow, and the majority of resources were not in place until six months after the mission began. Even today, there are more police resources attached to operational formed police units than resources with the skills and experience to assume the necessary training and mentorship roles of capacity building.

Complicating matters further, many of the contributing countries sent representatives with no more formal training or appropriate experience than the Haitian National Police they are mandated to develop. Moreover, the mission has an important shortage of francophone resources, and is not supported by adequate ‘language assistance’.

The extent and level of violence perpetrated by insurgents seeking to destabilize the government, discredit the international effort, and intimidate the population was never anticipated. When the multinational forces left Haiti in the summer of 2004, inadequate UN resources on the ground resulted in a security gap that was exploited by the politically motivated and directed criminal gangs. Security issues have demanded the missions’ attention in many respects, often at the expense of development activities.

The UN police also assumed responsibly for elections security coordination, an additional operational role that set back police development even further.

There was much fear that political leaders and electoral candidates known to be involved in criminal activity would use criminal money to fund election campaigns or otherwise influence election outcomes.

The extent and depth of corruption, criminality and politicization of the HNP exceeds what had been anticipated. Police were discovered to be actively involved in kidnapping and drug trafficking; the office of the Inspector General, the internal investigation mechanism of the police, was found to be under the influence of external influences; special units of the police (i.e., SWAT, CIMO) were implicated in significant human rights violations. Further, the judicial system was simply not functioning.

A weak communication strategy was also debilitating for the UN mission. The perception of the UN losing security control gained by the multinational force was exploited by local media and repeated by the international media. Combined with soft diplomacy to hold the interim government accountable for issues ranging from the vetting of politicized and corrupt justice officials to fraudulent payroll management, there was no shortage of material for the local media.

With practically no trained and experienced communications resources, the mission was slow off the mark on virtually every issue. And with development monies slow to flow, there was no perceptible evidence of the UN succeeding in any aspect of its mission.

3D progress
As the current mandate comes to an end, progress has not been as fast, or come as far, as might have been anticipated. Still, and in spite of the challenges, progress is finally being made. Much of it can be attributed to an integration of effort.

The UN version of the 3D approach is ‘mission integration’. Though integration of security efforts has been the most challenging, improved understanding of the roles and capacity of each of the partners, and improved communication and collaboration on the ground has led to a number of operational successes and improved effectiveness generally.

A more ‘intrusive’ diplomatic approach, specifically to hold local officials to account, has been taken. Changes in executive leadership in the Ministry of Justice and the police promise new cooperation and hopefully new accountability. The Memorandum of Understanding (HNP/UN Police) and a reform and restructuring plan are finally in place or nearing approbation. The first stages of the election processes have been completed with relatively little violence. Equally, there have been positive steps in vetting of current police resources and gaining support from government officials to address human rights violations by police, and corruption issues.

Also encouraging, donor countries and agencies, slow to participate in the first year of the mission, are coming on board in support of the notion that while we ‘reform and restructure’, we must also ‘rebuild’.

Keys for ‘mission integration’
While the Haiti mission has a long way to go before it can claim sustainable success, there is now evident progress, attributable to the notion of mission integration, breaking down traditional stovepipes of activity and recognition of the need for the holistic approach that 3D promotes.

Some of the lessons of Haiti can be considered basic to the 3D approach in a new and challenging security environment, where justice development is recognized as fundamental to all sustainable development.

Defence
The capacity of local security forces is considered central to exit strategies. Yet the weaknesses in such structures, including corruption, are usually obvious and part and parcel of the reason for the international intervention. Rushing to have local forces at the front end of operations is fraught with risk. At a minimum, operational focus of local resources slows the pace of development.

The international community is currently unable to deal effectively with conflict environments that see complex operational roles combined with the more traditional roles of capacity building. Police missions continue to be staffed by generalists with very basic, often inadequate skills. Clear understanding of the strengths and limitations of the security forces is fundamental to security integration.

Development
The Haiti mission is a stark example of how operations overshadowed and impeded development. There were simply insufficient skilled resources to deal with the complexities of operations and development at the same time. Further, a reliance on the HNP to provide operational capacity, and a preoccupation by government with police operations impacted progress in development on many levels.

Rebuilding broken and corrupted institutions starts with vetting. ‘Clean-up’ must be supported by the political structures. Close collaboration with NGOs and local organizations is an effective starting point and can assist in establishing credibility of the international community.

Justice is an integrated system. Sustainable progress demands parallel and integrated efforts across the justice sector (police, judiciary and corrections). This is a lesson often recorded by rarely learned.

Diplomacy
Political will is the singularly most essential ingredient of mission success. If local political will seems to be absent, by action or deed, it is sure to slow progress, misdirect activities, and impede sustainable activity. It must be addressed head on, and more ‘intrusive’ strategies and posture may be required from the outset.

Finally, a proactive and aggressive communications strategy is paramount to supporting fieldwork. If the mission is not getting its message out quickly and completely, if the mission progress is not known, it can be said (and will be said) that there is no progress.

Chief Superintendent D.C. (David) Beer is director general of International Policing for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

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