Specialized police units taking greater post-conflict role in UN missions

29 April 2006

Specialized police units, armoured and made up of 125 officers from a single country, are increasingly being pushed by the United Nations as an efficient, cost-effective way of bridging the gap between the military component in UN missions and the often nascent, traumatized national police forces of post-conflict countries, senior officials said today.

Specialized police units, armoured and made up of 125 officers from a single country, are increasingly being pushed by the United Nations as an efficient, cost-effective way of bridging the gap between the military component in UN missions and the often nascent, traumatized national police forces of post-conflict countries, senior officials said today.

UN Police Adviser Mark Kroeker said the first time such units – known as Formed Police Units (FPUs) – were used was as part of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), but their success there and in other operations has led to calls for increasing deployment, including in a recent letter by the Secretary-General to the Security Council calling for three FPUs to help the operation in Côte d'Ivoire.

“There is a gap between the military component in UN missions and the capacity of the local police forces and so we needed something that is not military and obviously the local police can't do it, so we came up with the concept of FPUs, something that has worked very well,” Mr. Kroeker explained in an interview with the UN News Service.

“These are a rapid reaction force if you like, trained for example in crowd control and other specializations, better armed than regular UN police and will provide a shield for the main component of regular UN police work, which is building the capacity of the national forces,” he said.

Highlighting the increasing importance attached to the specialized units, last month the UN gathered all the FPU commanders, representing five peacekeeping operations, for a seminar to hammer out uniform rules of engagement, training needs and other strategic and tactical issues for the units.

The seminar also brought together other UN officials, as well as interested parties from outside the world body, including NATO officers, and one of the measures it recommended was for countries contributing police officers to send their personnel to a dedicated international training centre, set up under the auspices of the G-8.

“The Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units (CoESPU) was set up in Vicenza, Italy on 1 March 2005 and this will ensure uniform standards of training and build on what was achieved at the March seminar,” Ata Yenigun, UN Police Mission Management Coordinator, told the UN News Service.

He said that one of the main things stressed at the seminar was the need for a standard training manual for FPUs, although other issues, including the need for a uniform code of conduct and how to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, were also key topics of discussion.

The increasing role likely to be played by FPUs in UN global peacekeeping will also send a key message to the populations of post-conflict societies that they are getting back to normal, said Gerard Beekman, UN Police Chief of Staff, a point also emphasized by Mr. Kroeker who added that the cost advantages of these units was also a big positive.

“To deploy a Formed Police Unit (FPU) costs us about $5 million but a battalion can go up to $28 million to $30 million so, where appropriate, there is not only a huge saving by deploying an FPU to deal with public law and order but we are also sending a signal that we are demilitarizing: moving from military to FPU, while we build the local police capacity, until finally these local police units take over,” the UN Police Adviser said.

 

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