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UN police strive for quality over quantity as role changes – top adviser

UN police strive for quality over quantity as role changes – top adviser

Mark Kroeker in Liberia (file photo)
As the role of UN police on peacekeeping missions evolves towards capacity building for local forces and away from strictly monitoring and observing, the need to recruit better quality officers becomes paramount, says the United Nations Police Adviser, citing this as one of the main challenges the division faces.

While noting progress over the past five years in moving the UN police to embrace this new “capacity-building” mission, Mark Kroeker acknowledges there is still work to do in changing the mindset of all officers as well as the people living in the post-conflict communities where they operate.

“The two big challenges that we face are both human. One is to find quality people -- quality advisers, quality leaders, quality trainers and mentors who can pass on their skills,” he said, contrasting this with an emphasis on quantity of staff in the past for the more traditional UN police role.

“The other challenge is communication, because as much as we believe in the new mission in our division here so that we know where we stand, the challenge is to get this message out to the societies we operate in and more so to our own ranks,” Mr. Kroeker added in an interview with the UN News Service at New York Headquarters.

“Leadership without communication is something you can't even call leadership,” he pointed out.

As to how to attract quality, Mr. Kroeker said the division was trying a variety of means, including a more professional and demanding recruitment process and screening to get the best candidates – a tactic he also said is being used to encourage more women officers to join the force.

Despite the bureaucratic inertia of any organization that is trying to change, and even more so for one representing 191 States, the Police Adviser said the role of UN police has to adapt to the increased demands of peacekeeping operations and he was pleased the idea of a more hands-on force is slowly catching on.

“The conviction that is spreading, is that since the police are the most visible sign of government and since security is the most important, fundamental need coming out of conflict, we need to build good police so that the people can be secure,” said Mr. Kroeker.

Acknowledging the challenges faced in post-conflict countries where local police forces are politicized or under the control of the military or simply made impotent – or, worse, through lack of funds and corruption – Mr. Kroeker remains convinced that the UN police are on the right track in a battle they have to win.

“Police have to be accountable to the people.”