Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Robert M. Perito
Senior Fellow - International Peace at USIP


The question of how to reestablish internal security within so called “failed states” is one of the most difficult challenges confronting the United States in the post-Cold War period. History since the fall of the Berlin Wall has seen the replacement of inter-state conflict by intra-state conflict. The Cold War roll of “confrontation states”—Vietnam, Afghanistan and Angol--has been replaced by a new list of “failed states”—Somalia, Haiti and Yugoslavia. From 1990 to 1997, there were 49 wars involving at least 1,000 battle deaths. Of these, only seven were between countries, the remaining 42 were internal conflicts.

This change in the nature of international conflict brought a corresponding change in the nature of international peace operations. Historically, wars occurred between nations; battles were fought between armies. Conflicts ended with agreements that established national boundaries or cease-fire lines that separated the belligerents. Until the end of Cold War, international peacekeeping forces were deployed along these lines of separation to ensure that the parties to conflict did not cross. With the rise of intra-state conflicts, international military intervention has been required to end ethnic, religious and ideological conflicts so that humanitarian assistance, refugee return, economic reconstruction and political reconciliation could occur. In every case, the international community faced the issue of how to reestablish sustainable security. In nearly every instance, an important part of the answer has been the deployment of international civilian police forces and the attempt to create indigenous police forces that operate in accordance with internationally accepted standards of human rights and the rule of law.

The use of international police forces in peace operations is increasingly seen as one of the keys to creating the conditions and institutions necessary to achieve sustainable security. From the first 173 United Nations Civilian Police (CIVPOL) involved in the 1964 UN Peacekeeping Mission in Cyprus, the number of UN CIVPOL authorized by the Security Council increased to 8,696 personnel in eight peacekeeping missions in mid-2001. This number includes a one-year, 300 percent increase in the authorized strength of CIVPOL missions in 1999. The largest CIVPOL mission is in Kosovo with an authorized strength of 4,719 officers. Other major UNCIVPOL missions are in Bosnia with an authorized strength of 2,057 and in East Timor with an authorized strength of 1,640 officers.
In addition to the United Nations, regional organizations in Europe have also fielded international police missions. On June 1, 2001, a team of 25 police advisors representing the European Union (EU) replaced 120 members of the Western European Union’s (WEU) Multinational Police Advisory Element (MAPE) in Albania. Composed of police from 23 WEU countries, MAPE participated in the Italian-led Multinational Protection Force that entered Albania in April 1997 and remained to provide training and technical assistance for the Albanian National Police. A small number of police from the WEU also participated in the EU’s administration of Mostar, Bosnia in 1994-96. WEU police carried sidearms, provided limited police services and conducted training for local police. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) provided the small “Police Monitoring Mission in the Danube Region of Croatia” that relieved the UN Police Support Group in Eastern Slavonia in October 1998. This mission terminated with the withdrawal of OSCE personnel in 200l. The OSCE sponsored Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission and the follow-on Kosovo Verification Mission in Kosovo included police observers. OSCE is also responsible for training indigenous police in Kosovo.

Military and Police Forces

Contemporary peace operations find their historical antecedents in different types of non-combatant operations conducted by military forces. In these operations, military forces were required to perform “constabulary” or police functions related to law enforcement and the maintenance of public security. Military forces normally are not trained or properly equipped to perform such duties and generally regard them as distracting from their primary responsibilities. This point was made by NATO’s Commander, General Wesley Clark, at the beginning of the Kosovo mission, when he urged the rapid deployment of an international police force to help restore public order. According to General Clark: “Experience in peace operations has proven that good soldiers, no matter how well equipped, trained, organized and led cannot fully perform police duties among local populations.”

The difficulty and even unwillingness of international military forces to perform police operations results from differences in the nature, structure, training and experience of police and military forces. In democratic countries, the division of responsibility between police and military is clearly defined in domestic law. The purpose of military forces is to protect the country from the threat of external enemies and to guard the country’s borders. Military forces normally operate in times of inter-state conflict under international conventions that authorize the killing of enemy forces and destruction of property. Military forces are trained to concentrate mass and firepower to overwhelm an enemy. Military forces are heavily armed and trained to operate as units. They live separated from the general population on bases where they are kept in a state of “readiness” to act in situations of extreme violence.

In contrast to military forces, police are recruited, organized and trained to preserve public order and protect property within a country under its national and local laws. Police may be armed, but in many countries they do not normally carry weapons. Police officers may only use force that is proportional to what the situation requires. Police are authorized to use deadly force, but this right is heavily circumscribed by law and normally is permitted only to save another person’s life or for self-defense. Police operate as individuals. They live in the community and are frequently in direct contact with their fellow citizens.

For service in UN peace operations, civilian police are volunteered by their respective governments as individuals and must pass an examination to demonstrate they have the skills required. Unlike military units that arrive with all their own logistics support and are self-sustaining, police arrive ‘in theater’ as individuals with only their uniforms. They do not have autonomous support and must rely upon the UN to provide transport, communications, medical care, rations, offices and equipment. CIVPOL are designated as “experts” by the UN and are paid a mission allowance, which means they must find their own lodgings in the local community. This can be extremely difficult in areas that suffered massive destruction of housing and infrastructure during the conflict. Policemen are also responsible for their own safety, especially when off duty and even in missions where they are not armed.

Unlike military forces, police are trained to use the minimum amount of force required to deal with a situation. Police are trained to respond to civil disorder along a ‘force continuum’ utilizing only the levels of force necessary to restore order. Unlawful civil demonstrations, riots and the destruction of property are criminal acts. In democratic countries, these activities are not punished by the death penalty. It is important, therefore, that international security forces not apply the death penalty for these offenses during peace operations.

The Role of Police in Peace Operations

The increased interest in using international police results from their ability to contribute to public security in the short term, while helping to build institutions that are critical for long-term stability. There is an emerging consensus that international police forces offer a cost-effective solution in financial and political terms to the problems of rebuilding post-conflict societies. The increase in the use of international police forces is evidence of a growing recognition that police are the most appropriate actors to deal with a broad range of tasks that are common to all peace operations.

With the expansion in the number of UN police missions and CIVPOL officers has come a marked expansion in the duties of international police forces. At the core of CIVPOL’s traditional responsibilities has been the monitoring of local police and the oversight of public safety and security. These tasks were summarized in the “SMART Concept” that was introduced in A Trainers Guide on Human Rights for CIVPOL Monitors, a handbook issued in 1995 by the Center for Human Rights in cooperation with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) Training Unit. The acronym describes the core “package” of responsibilities that are found in all CIVPOL mandates. These include:
Supporting human rights;
Monitoring the performance of local law enforcement authorities;
Advising indigenous police;
Reporting on the situation; and,
Training indigenous law enforcement officers.

In the aftermath of intra-state conflict, this core mandate can involve an impressive array of peacekeeping duties. These have included:

1. insuring the personal security and protecting the human rights of returning refugees and displaced persons;
2. providing candidate security and encouraging a neutral political environment during election campaigns;
3. monitoring the cantonment, disarmament and demobilization of armed combatants;
4. providing liaison between factions, non-governmental organizations and international agencies;
5. assisting relief agencies; and,
6. assisting international military forces in the performance of their duties.

In El Salvador, Somalia, Haiti, Guatemala and Bosnia, the CIVPOL mandate extended beyond monitoring and mentoring local police during the performance of their duties to focus extensively on police reorganization, reform, training and institution building. In these countries, it was clear that members of the former military/police forces had engaged in the internal conflict through death squads, ethnic cleansing, torture, illegal detention and intimidation and were neither politically nor operationally fit to police the peace. Of the 23 peace operations initiated in the 1990s, 17 included efforts to reform and rebuild indigenous police institutions.

Police reform is critical because intra-state conflicts do not terminate with the signing of a peace agreement and most ‘failed states’ experience a spike in domestic violence and crime in the immediate, post-conflict period. Ethnic hatreds also do not subside with the signing of a formal cease-fire. Once safe from the guns of the combatants, civilians often face new and equally deadly threats from criminals, ex-combatants, vigilantes and members of other ethnic groups seeking revenge. After nearly all the civil conflicts in the last two decades, civilians have reported feeling less secure, and in El Salvador and South Africa were at greater risk for death or serious injury after the formal conflict ended than during it.

Central to the task of national reconstruction is the creation of a professional, humane civilian police force that operates with respect for internationally recognized human rights and the rule of law. Such a force must be composed of diverse ethnic, religious and political groups that will protect citizens and enforce the law with impartiality. Where police are repressive or have political, ethnic or religious bias, attempts to install democratic government or rule of law will be frustrated. Local police are the most common ‘face’ of the new government. Where a single ethnic group dominates the police, other groups will turn to ethnically based mechanisms to provide their security. In many cases, this involves forming alliances with organized criminal enterprises and groups that can attempt to form a ‘mafia’ controlled province or state. In Bosnia and Kosovo, international authorities and local police have had extreme difficulty confronting organized mafias that are armed and have close associations with powerful political personalities and parties.

In most cases, provisions for creating indigenous police are not detailed in the peace agreement and are left to the international civilian police force to improvise solutions under less than ideal circumstances. This is particularly true as peace settlements normally do not identify financial resources for implementing police reform and restructuring, which is more than simply transferring police skills from the international civilian police to a ‘rookie’ indigenous force. The most serious challenges to fledging police services derive from weak judicial institutions and traditions of intimidation and authoritarianism in society. Police reform must be a component of a comprehensive effort to reform the entire judicial system that includes prosecutors, courts and prisons. A competent judicial system is necessary to prevent impunity from prosecution and to insure that justice is an effective alternative to the renewal of armed conflict.

Development of indigenous civilian police forces requires a multi-year effort and international police officers who are not only law enforcement professionals, but experts in building institutions, establishing police academies, creating police departments and designing systems of law enforcement service delivery based on democratic principles of community-oriented policing. In this aspect of their work, UN Civilian Police forces have been handicapped by the UN’s failure until recently to specifically recruit expert police instructors, police academy directors, police administrators and strategic planners. Short-term assignments and frequent turnover of personnel have handicapped UNCIVPOL’s involvement in institutional development. In addition, institution building requires a high level of political will, including the fortitude to withstand resistance from local parties to the conflict or newly created governments.

In more recent peace operations, UNCIVPOL have moved beyond monitoring, training and institution building to actually exercising executive authority (full police powers). Assumption of such far-reaching authority was necessitated by the withdrawal of Yugoslav police from Kosovo and Indonesian police from East Timor under the terms of the respective peace agreements. In Kosovo and East Timor, the Security Council authorized the creation of UN transitional administrations that are empowered to exercise executive and legislative authority, including the administration of justice and law enforcement. UNCIVPOL in these peace operations are armed and have full police powers to enforce the law, conduct criminal investigations and arrest offenders.

In another departure, CIVPOL forces in Kosovo and East Timor included “formed units” or “Special Police Units” (SPU) provided by member states as integrated units complete with transport, communications, weapons and an internal chain of command. These constabulary or gendarme police units combine police and military capabilities. The best known of such forces are the Italian Carabinieri, French Gendarmerie, Spanish Guardia Civil and Dutch Marechaussee. Since these forces, which exist more commonly in Europe, deploy as units their members are not required to qualify for CIVPOL service as individuals like other CIVPOL officers. The SPUs in Kosovo and East Timor have military training, transport and weapons and are similar to the NATO “Multinational Specialized Units” of military police that are part of SFOR in Bosnia and KFOR in Kosovo. The SPU assigned to Kosovo and East Timor, however, are part of the UN Civilian Police mission and report to the UNCIVPOL Commissioner. They have executive authority to make arrests and conduct criminal investigations. Their rules of engagement for controlling civil demonstrations are the same as other UNCIVPOL elements in those operations.

Problems with Police in Peace Operations

While the number of international civilian police have markedly increased, international police missions have been plagued by political, administrative, logistical, manpower and quality control problems that have yet to be resolved. Of most pressing concern is the UN’s inability to obtain adequate numbers of qualified police personnel. In July 2001, UN member states had made available only 7,697 of the 8,696 police officers required to fill the positions authorized by the Security Council for current missions. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations recruits for CIVPOL missions on the basis of “universality.” At the beginning of a peace operation, letters are sent to the permanent missions of member states in New York City requesting that governments contribute as many police officers as possible to staff the new mission.

This method of simply calling for volunteers has resulted in UNCIVPOL forces of extremely varied quality and heavily weighted toward participation by non-industrialized countries. With officers from 70 countries, UNCIVPOL missions must contend with a bewildering mix of social, cultural, normative and religious backgrounds and a broad range of professional skills and law enforcement subcultures among their contingents. The fact that police officers come from established democracies, emerging democracies and autocratic states adds to the difficulties CIVPOL commanders face in organizing a coherent police force.

In many cases, recruits can not even meet the minimal UN standards for serving in a CIVPOL mission, which include: (1) five years police experience; (2) ability to drive a four-wheel-drive vehicle; and, (3) ability to speak the official mission language (usually English or French). In Bosnia, these minimal requirements where so often ignored that the UN DPKO began sending Selection Assistance Teams to donor countries to prescreen potential CIVIPOL officers before their departure. The first such team saved the UN an estimated $527,360.00 based upon what it would have cost to repatriate officers who would have failed the tests upon arrival in theater.

In the face of universal increases in rates of domestic and international crime, governments have proven extremely reluctant to release more than token numbers of police for international service. The prospect of foreign policemen arresting citizens in another, sovereign country also raises political, legal and ethical questions. International police missions have been slow to deploy. They have also been handicapped by the UN ‘s inability to provide adequate equipment and vehicles in a timely manner. Unlike military units that travel with their own logistical support, communications and transport, policemen serve as individuals and normally arrive for international duty with only their uniforms. International police missions have been troubled by an inability of the international community to agree upon clear mandates, rules of engagement, or even if international police should be armed or unarmed. In most missions, UN CIVPOL have been unarmed because: (1) police with sidearms would be no match for heavily armed populations; (2) CIVPOL’s role is to create confidence in the rule of law not in the resort to violence; (3) many countries have a tradition of unarmed police; and, (4) the need for police to carry weapons would indicate to donor countries there was an unacceptable level of security risk.

US Civilian Police Contingents

The problems associated with fielding international civilian police forces have been particularly challenging for the United States. In the early part of the Twentieth Century, the United States created police constabularies in the Caribbean and Central America that subsequently became vehicles for dictatorial rule. In these operations and subsequent assistance programs, little distinction was made between military and civilian security functions. Police forces became instruments of regime power that were directed against internal opponents rather than domestic crime or external threats. In 1974, Congress adopted Section 660 of the Foreign Assistance Act banning US assistance to foreign police forces. This action followed disclosures that graduates from the USAID Office of Public Security’s police training programs had engaged in torture and human rights abuse. Today, the US is the only country where assistance to foreign police forces is illegal. All US international police assistance programs are conducted under waivers or specific exemptions from the 1974 law.

In the past 26 years, the United States has gone from legally banning assistance to foreign police forces to becoming the world’s largest contributor of manpower, money and material to international police missions in peace operations. At present, over 835 American police officers are serving in three UN civilian police missions: Kosovo (605), Bosnia (150), and East Timor (80). Previously, a contingent of 23 American UNCIVPOL was withdrawn from Haiti in August 2000. From January 1996 to January 1998, the US contributed 25 of the 400-member UNCIVPOL mission that served under the UN Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia. After the area reverted to Croatian control in January 1998, 25 US civilian police remained as part of the subsequent UN Police Support Group (UNPSG) and the follow-on OSCE police mission that replaced the UNPSG in October 1998. In Fiscal Year 2000, the US spent $75 million to support its CIVPOL contingents and an additional $20 million to train indigenous police and support judicial and penal reform in countries where United States Civilian Police (US CIVPOL) contingents were present.

The growth in the number of US police serving in peace operations has been both extremely rapid and on an ad hoc basis. The US CIVPOL program has no statutory authority and is funded by annual appropriations. The United States has no national police force similar to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which provides Canadian police officers for service in UN CIVPOL missions. Instead the United States has nearly 18,000 independent state, county and municipal police forces. There are also 14 highly specialized federal law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the United States Secret Service and the US Marshals Service that deal with specific types of crimes. No federal law enforcement agency (including the Justice Department) has legislative authority to recruit US law enforcement officers for service in United Nations or other international police missions.

Presidential Decision Directive–71 on “Strengthening Criminal Justice Systems in Support of Peace Operations,” which was issued by the Clinton Administration, directed the Administration to improve the quality of US CIVPOL contingents and the ability of the United Nations to conduct international police missions. Responsibility for fielding US contingents was assigned to the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The State Department, in turn, contracts out responsibility for the recruiting, training, and logistical support of US CIVPOL contingents to the DynCorp Corporation, a commercial, government-services firm based in San Antonio, Texas. Police officers participating in US CIVPOL contingents legally are independent, sub-contractors who receive a fee for service. This arrangement allows the federal government to avoid a myriad of political, administrative, financial and liability issues that would arise from temporarily placing state and local police in federal service. The United States is the only country to use contractors of a commercial firm as police officers for CIVPOL contingents. It is also the only country to provide logistics support to its police officers in the field. For all other countries, police participating in CIVPOL missions are in national service and the UN provides administrative support.

As vacancy rates in US police departments are high, police chiefs and government officials are reluctant to let qualified police officers take a one-year leave of absence to serve in a UN mission. Active duty officers have had to resign and it has been difficult for them to find appropriate domestic assignments after returning from abroad. The majority of US CIVPOL recruited by DynCorp are retired officers, although the number of active duty officers is increasing. US police officers are drawn from state and local law enforcement agencies of widely varied size and character. They also come from unique regional, law-enforcement subcultures around the country. The result of using retirees from a broad range of police backgrounds is that US CIVPOL contingents are experienced, but of highly mixed quality. Utilizing a commercial contractor also limits the oversight the US government can exercise over the conduct of US personnel in the field.

Although the record of US contingents is significantly better than most others, DynCorp has hired some American officers who were less than fit for strenuous duty. One elderly former state trooper arrived in Bosnia wearing a pacemaker. There have also been incidents of American officers returned to the United States for various types of misconduct. The most senior US CIVPOL officer in Bosnia was forced to resign amid allegations he accepted financial favors from local officials. Rectification of this situation would require new legislative authority which would assign responsibility to a US federal law enforcement agency. This agency would be empowered to recruit both active duty and retired officers, swear them into federal service, and provide for their pay, insurance, transportation, equipment and logistical support. This would place US CIVPOL contingents on a par with those of other nations. It would also give the federal government the control it currently lacks over American CIVPOL officers that now wear US uniforms, carry weapons provided by the US government, have authority to use deadly force, but report to a commercial contractor.

European Response

While the US has expanded its role in international policing, European regional organizations such as the EU and the OSCE are also creating the capacity to assist post-conflict societies to reestablish public security and the rule of law. With peacekeeping operations in the Balkans occurring on their doorstep, Western European nations are already organizing the forces necessary to more quickly close the security gap in future Bosnias and Kosovos. The Council of the European Union has announce that one of the “headline” goals of its European Security and Defense Police is to develop a force of 5,000 civilian police (including constabulary units) by 2003 that would be available on short notice for peacekeeping duties. The EU police force will have a rapid reaction capability to deploy 1,000 police (including gendarme units) within 30 days. Currently there are 3,600 police officers from EU countries serving in peacekeeping roles, including gendarme units serving with SFOR in Bosnia and KFOR in Kosovo. The EU is currently engaged in developing common doctrine, conducting joint training exercises and up grading the number and status of police advisors and strategic planners in the EU Council secretariat and Crisis Management Unit. The EU is also creating a ‘ready roster’ of legal and judicial experts that would be able to assist with reestablishing the other parts of the justice ‘triad’ of police, courts and prisons.

At its Heads of State or Government Summit in Istanbul in November 1999, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced its intention to create the capacity to field “Rapid Expert Assistance and Cooperation Teams (REACT)”, which would include international civilian police. The Summit also mandated establishing an Operations Center at OSCE headquarters in Vienna to identify potential crisis areas and to plan and coordinate assistance programs. The REACT concept called for the creation of national ‘ready rosters’ by OSCE member states that would enable the OSCE Crisis Management Center to deploy civilian and police experts to assist with pre-crisis management and post-conflict reconstruction in ‘failed states’. The plan called for identification of 500 civilian police, as well as human rights, judicial, elections, information technology and administration and logistics experts that would be available to engage in the monitoring and training of indigenous police and other local officials in peace operations and other humanitarian emergencies. The OSCE is in the process of creating the capacity to implement this concept.

A Division of Labor: The UN vs. Regional Organizations.

The division of labor between the United Nations and European regional organizations in international police operations was reviewed at a conference hosted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on May 4-5, 2001. Participants included the Head of the UN CIVPOL Division and police officials from the OSCE, the EU and the Western European Union. The Conference concluded that the United Nations’ global authority and extensive experience make it the undisputed leader in international police missions. Those attending the Conference agreed that OSCE and EU involvement in peace operations is best accomplished under a UN mandate and in support of objectives established by the UN Security Council. In previous peace operations, regional organizations such as the OSCE have worked with the United Nations under one of the following four models:

1. Regional succession: Where the regional organization has taken over from the UN in areas that require long-term international police presence, as the OSCE did in Eastern Slavonia.
2. Joint Policing: Where the regional organization cooperated with the UN in conducting a joint mission, as the Organization of American States did in Haiti.
3. Division of Labor: Where the UN and regional organizations divide law and order responsibilities, as in Kosovo where the UN is responsible for international police and the OSCE is responsible for indigenous police training.
4. UN sanctioned policing: Where the UN authorized the regional organization to act alone, as in the Western European Union’s police mission in Albania.

The Conference noted that European regional organizations such as the OSCE have certain advantages that make them effective partners with the UN in international police operations. The OSCE, for example, is largely composed of prosperous, like-minded, democratic nations with personnel and material resources exceeding those of most UN member states. Regional organizations have certain geographic and cultural advantages and may enjoy greater legitimacy with local citizens. Interest in regional stability is also likely to result in neighboring states making a greater political commitment and staying longer. Participation by the EU and OSCE in international peace operations can begin the process of preparing indigenous police for membership in European regional law-enforcement organizations such as EUROPOL. Given these advantages, the Conference concluded that European regional organizations could assist the UN with police operations in the following areas:

In training international police for participation in CIVPOL missions, reducing the chronic problem of inadequately trained personnel. Many European nations, particularly those in Scandinavia, routinely provide training for their police officers and those of other countries to prepare them for serving in peace operations. These programs could be expanded to increase the number of qualified policemen available for UN approved police missions.

In rapidly deploying police to reduce the delays that have plagued previous UN operations. Geographic proximity and the new ‘rapid reaction’ programs of the EU and OSCE should give European regional organizations an advantage in quickly deploying police in future police missions. Knowledge of the area, language, culture and previous contacts should also work to the advantage of the EU and OSCE in deploying police to assist in regional emergencies.

By providing police with special skills, particularly in the areas of organized crime and civil disorder management. Given the professional competence of police forces in Europe, the OSCE and the EU are positioned to provide specialists for future international police missions. In situations like Kosovo where the UN Police are providing full police services there is a need for experts in traffic control, criminal investigation, forensics, organized crime, VIP protection and other police specialties as well as routine patrol. Regional organizations are a likely source of such expertise as well as linguistic skills and experience in regional liaison.

Beyond assisting in international police operations, European regional organizations can play an important role in the training and development of indigenous police forces. In Kosovo, the OSCE with US leadership and participation from over 20 other member nations, has created a police training facility, the Kosovo Police Service School (KPSS), which meets international standards. The US Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) provided the school’s director, basic curriculum and a quarter of its teaching staff. The OSCE provided political and financial support, while other members provided faculty and material assistance. From a standing start in July 1999, the KPSS met its commitment to train 4,000 Kosovo Police Service Officers this summer. The KPSS also trained UN Police who initially served as Field Training Officers for KPSS graduates. The success of this program demonstrates the advantages of burden sharing with the UN and the constructive role that regional organizations such as the OSCE can play in future international police missions.