Societies emerging from conflict face a myriad of security threats from extremists and other criminal organisations (Gowlland-Debbas and Pergantis, 2009). However, indigenous capacity by local security institutions to meet these challenges is always inadequate and sometimes non-existent (Dobbins, et al, 2007). Deployment of police officers on peace operations has been one of instrumental ways that has been used by United Nations to re-establish rule of law. With non-executive mission mandate, the police among other things, provide expert assistance, conduct operational assessments and train and develop host country policing capacity while in executive mandate police protects law and order while also building up national police capacity. These tasks require deployment of officers who have the best skills and knowledge in conducting police duties specific to the mission. However, this is not the case as observed by some authors and also through personal experience as a peacekeeper with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
Dobbins, et al (2007) observe that international police have different policing techniques and understanding on human rights and democratic policing. Besides, policing is always understood from national perspective (Hills, 2009:65) and that there is no agreement to what constitutes appropriate policing. Bellamy and Williams (2010) also note that there is great demand in the role and responsibilities of UN Police but laments that most contributing countries are reluctant to send their most qualified officers for peacekeeping operations. This has resulted in ‘unqualified, inexperienced and underperforming officers to be deployed in the mission’ (Serafino, 2004:14). This was witnessed at Sanniquellie Police Station also at the UNMIL Police Division Headquarters between 2006 and 2007. Most officers lacked requisite skills to carry out the task of transferring skills to a ‘police force riddled with corruption, lack of professionalism and accountability’ (Human Rights Watch, 2013: 2).
Co-location, a strategy that required international police to work side by side with local police did not yield intended results because some of the UN Police Officers had little experience and knowledge compared to the local police officers. This happened for, example, in the area of community policing since this policing strategy was not known to police officers from some countries. This observation was also made by Smith, et al. (2007) who state that ‘the majority of candidates in the UNMIL mission failed to meet basic UN standards with little knowledge of international norms and standards for democratic policing with some having less professional experience and competence than the local police’. This lack of experience will be analysed through experience with some officers in Malawi when applying for peacekeeping duties especially at the time of preparing the Personal History (PH-11) forms.
When officers are preparing the PH-11 forms, they are guided by officers assigned to work in the Peace Support Operations Office who know the kind of skills that are required in particular mission area. Consequently, officers tailor their ‘experiences’ to meet the requirements of the mission. This finds officers who have served all their time in the police service as anti-riot officers, for instance, indicating working in community policing roles because they know that this is one key experience required in the specific mission. However, the problem of not having the right officers in peace operations can be resolved if the suggestions indicated below can be implemented.
The assessment that is made through the Selection Assistance Team to select officers eligible to go to peace operations should test requisite police function skills rather than mere comprehension, listening, report writing and driving abilities. Pre-deployment training is one tool used to bridge this gap in skills. The training should address specific issues such as democratic and community policing including legal systems applicable in the mission area and that this should be assessed through formal examination. Marking of the examinations be done by independent people rather than trainers and only those that pass with some level of proficiency be deployed.
In addition, regional bodies such as the African Union should have robust training for officers on deployment roster and such training should not be confined to the two weeks period they take. Inculcating professional knowledge and skills necessary for a post-conflict environment requires adequate time if these officers would be of relevance rather just being in the mission to get the Daily Subsistence Allowance which most officers focus on rather than transforming the local police.
There should also be a way of providing an incentive to member states that provide the best officers by promulgating them through such forum as United Nations General Assembly or any other means of appreciating their unreserved support. This would help to avert the problem of providing below standard officers.
It has been established that some officers that are sent on peace operations do not have required skills necessary for post-conflict environments. This can be rectified if appropriate measures can be put in place from selection criteria to pre-deployment training. This will assist the indigenous police to handle security issues that affect environments emerging from conflict through appropriate skills transfer.
The problem of sending some unqualified or officers without requisite skills for a post-conflict environment has not been resolved for a number of reasons. Budgetary constraints by the organisations responsible for the deployed officers is key among the reasons. The United Nations is the main organisation deploying officers but it has been noted that all it does is sending officers to assist in the selection process of officers to be on the roster for deployment. The selection process only focuses on listening, comprehension and report writing which are not the only skills that police officers require in the mission.
The quality of officers deployed has also been compromised because training institutions conducting pre-deployment training use the number of officers trained as their performance indicator. The performance indicator should change from the number of officers trained to level of understanding of policing requirements in environments emerging from conflicts. Therefore, those who do not satisfactorily show understanding of the needs of the police in the mission should not be allowed to be deployed in the mission area.
Another reason is that strict measures are not followed from the selection process to training because of the fear that it will reduce number of available officers for deployment taking into consideration the fact that already the demand for officers is higher than supply by member states. It may be important to focus on the quality rather than the quantity because apart from inefficiencies by the officers lacking required skills, the UN spends its money on officers that do not provide any value in assisting the indigenous police officers.
Bellamy, A.J., and Williams, P.D. (2010) Understanding Peacekeeping. Cambridge: Polity.
Dobbins, J., Jones, S.G., Crane, K. and DeGrasse, B.C. (2007) The Beginner’s Guide to Nation-Building. Arlington: Rand Corporations.
Gowlland-Debbas, V. and Pergantis, V. (2009) ‘Rule of Law’ in V. Chetail (Ed) Post-Conflict Peacekeeping: A lexicon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hills, A. (2009) Policing in Post-Conflict Cities. New York: Zed Books Limited.
Human Rights Watch (2013) No Money No Justice: Police Corruption and Abuse in Liberia [Online]. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/liberia0813_forUpload_0.pdf [Accessed on 30 December 2015].
Serafino, N. (2004) Policing in Peacekeeping and Stability Operations: Problems and Proposed Solutions. Washington DC: Library of Congress Library.
Smith, J.G., Holt, V.K. and Dutch, W.J. (2007) From Timor Leste to Darfur: New Initiative for Enhancing UN Civilian Policing Capacity. Washington DC: Henry L. Stimson Centre. Issue Brief, August.