On Defunding the Police – Policing as a Function

Policing refers to a function of governance responsible for the prevention, detection and investigation of crime; protection of persons and property; and the maintenance of public order and safety. Police and law enforcement officials have the obligation to respect and protect human rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reaffirmed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant instruments.

 

Main argument

In this part I am presenting the argument that it is necessary to identify the core role of policing in a jurisdiction. Funding then needs to prioritize the effective and efficient implementation of that core role, and provide the means to ensure that policing is carried out within the framework of rules which reflect on the values that underpin that implementation of policing.

I also say that it is entirely common to look at which functions a police organization could carry out in addition to their core mandate. Of course, there is funding needed for this as well. However, responsible governance needs to make sure that additional tasks for a police department do not negatively affect the core mandate of that department. Responsible governance also has to question whether police is well-suited for additional tasks that may require specific, or different training. Police training is different from customs training, from military training, from training for correctional services, or from training for social services. Do not use a hammer for screws, or a screwdriver for nails. It destroys hammer, nail, screwdriver, and screws.

It is entirely legitimate to look at whether there would be better ways to implement the additional tasks given to a police organisation, by other means, such as strengthened social services. That, again, would require to re-allocate the necessary funding. Which is a form of defunding the police.

Thirdly, law enforcement needs to be equipped for carrying out its tasks. There is a direct line between the identification of “what” I want to do “how”, and what I decide to use as a technical means of assistance. If a police department decides to procure or to accept military style equipment for carrying out its tasks, that will change the attitude of officers in how they understand the task of policing. If that is leading to problems (which is evident in the United States), then reform efforts may lead to giving up purchase and use of military style equipment. Defunding the purchase of military equipment may allow both for funding core tasks of policing better (such as giving more resources to community-oriented policing), or free funds for support the work of other parts of government, such as social services.

Taken together, all three lines of what is named “defunding” are no reason to believe law enforcement and their staff would be “punished”. Instead, the reform leads to better policing, and more of it, and it leads to better other services of governance, such as social services.


Supporting arguments

It is all too easy to throw out the baby together with the used water in the bathtub if one doesn’t take the necessary time for a careful look.

The current debate about reforming policing has gone way beyond the borders of the United States of America, and it is happening on grounds of both long simmering discontent and because of current justified anger and immense outrage. Crimes such as the murder of George Floyd have triggered it, and the confrontational and at times horribly abusive handling of the protests by the system of governance is escalating it: It proves the case that something is flawed on a fundamental level. This in turn has led to so much growth of the protest movement in size that we may see, for the first time, a real chance for substantial change.

The sheer size of the demand to reform policing in its fundamental aspects is inevitably causing tension between those who advocate reform, and those who hold conservative views. That is good for a constructive democratic discourse.

Comparing how things are done elsewhere can help, as long as those who describe what they do elsewhere, and how they do it, don’t pretend that they have better ideas and solutions. We all cook with water, hypocrisy is poison to the debate.

I see, however, that there is an element in this discussion which goes beyond the constructive exchange of arguments in a reform discussion:

There are those who dig in. Reactionist forces attempt to quell the reform movement by a combination of (1) de-legitimizing reformers’ motivations; (2) de-legitimizing reformers as persons “per se” by demonizing them; and (3) pretending to associate with the cause, in order to take out the energy for change. The longer the successful application of this strategy, chances are that reform runs out of steam. And like events in 2016 allowed reactionists to boldly roll back honest and deep-looking reform efforts, the same threat is looming over 2020.

An example for de-legitimizing reformer’s motivations: Accuse them collectively and with no supporting evidence that they want to abolish the police entirely, or to de-construct the State.

An example for de-legitimizing reformers by demonizing them: Accuse them of anti-constitutional attitude, label them “radical left”, or even “domestic terrorists”, and freely make use of de-humanizing them, talking about “low-lifes”, “loosers”, or even worse.

An example for pretending to associate with the cause: Jump on the band-wagon of talking about how serious the problem is, express sympathies, be a bit emotional if you can, make sure to spread your hollow words of empathy and sympathy widely, say that you fully agree, throw in a “however”, and talk about anything but the core argument that leads to the reform necessity. Make no efforts to turn your pretended sympathies to the cause into any action.

So: What is the core argument?

The core is related to the question what the function of policing is about. No more, no less. A reform discourse needs to look at this one first.

Second comes the discussion about how (aka by which organizational means) the function of policing is implemented. Here, things become complicated, because the way how policing is being implemented is based on historical developments that are entirely localised. America’s culture is different from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Sweden, Tanzania, South-Sudan, Jordan, Egypt. Or any of the 193 countries forming the United Nations. All are different. Because of their history.

But does it mean we can only talk about one country’s policing approach, and does it mean there is no possibility to come to a common denominator which we all agree upon? Do we have to engage in a never ending “My toy is fancier than yours”-debate?

The answer is: It is very much possible to come to a unified minimum understanding, because we have done and achieved exactly that. I have witnessed that, by participating in it. It took us give or take ten years from voicing the dream, through finding support, learning how to do it, until we had written it down and agreed. The result includes what I quoted in my “Statement of Solidarity“.

And this result is not a collection of lofty sentences. As the United Nations, we needed to put a common understanding of what is policing and how it should be done front and center, for purpose of maximum transparency: This is what you get when we help you, this is what we need you to agree upon when we help you, because we have a few red lines which we all must not cross in this partnership. This is what any UN Police officer will understand as her or his function, notwithstanding from where that officer comes. This is how we expect police officers to be trained before they deploy into a United Nations Mission meant to assist in handling a conflict, or recovering from conflict.

If you look up the entire work which began with the document I quoted from, you see that we broke it down into a detailed understanding: We do have a common understanding about how to carry out community-oriented policing. We share detailed understanding about intelligence-led policing. We do know what a tactical group of the Police, such as a company sized “Formed Police Unit” should do when protecting peaceful demonstrations, and how to engage with those who disturb the peace, become violent, carry out crimes. We do know how police should establish functions that ensure accountability towards the law and towards citizens. We do know how police officers should use force as the last resort.

We have written that all down, and much more. And all along the way, the United States of America was part of a truly global support for further development of this framework, stressing the need that it has to be operationalized through training. Which is what we do, all over the world, and including heavy support by the United States of America. For which I am grateful beyond words.

Does, therefore, police have to look the same anywhere? No. But it does mean that one always should look at whether we have gotten the implementation of the core function of policing right. You can assign additional functions of any kind. The discourse about whether this makes sense, or not, usually carries many practical and political arguments with weight in the specific local context. But it should always prioritize the question whether the additional tasks impede core tasks, and whether police departments are suitable and capable to carry out that task. Like any other profession, training and organization of work in the police creates specific mindsets, highly capable of implementing policing. But it does not mean that this mindset, or training, is the right one for the additional tasks that are being expected to be handled.

The way to ensure this is called management. And any reform of something which has taken root is no less than an art.

Sometimes, less tasks for the police will create much more satisfaction with results.

On Defunding the Police – Entry Point

Not everything that can be faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed that is not faced.

JAMES BALDWIN

 

This will only be the first blog entry on this topic. I will go into the substance of how I look at this discussion in following articles. This one is intended to make clear how I look at the entire discussion, as a concerned individual and retired police officer, and a former United Nations Police Adviser. Thus, expect that my statements in subsequent articles will be as rational as I can be, and I reserve the emotional part motivating me for contributing to this discussion to this entry article. So, keep looking for follow-on to this writing, it will come soon. Expect the juice being inside a rational, but passionate debate contribution. I always try to stay away from partisan positions, except when it comes to underpinning values.

On values, I am very clearly partisan: I am United Nations hard-core, including all values on humanity represented by the UN, and developed within the UN-system. Which, by way of reminder, is the community of 193 Member States of the United Nations. We are the UN, as long as we contribute to the spirit of the UN, rather than disengaging from the UN. Like in the narrow context which will follow, engagement requires willingness to listen, rather than to yell. Any discussion which is lead in the spirit of finding consent requires to accept that it is legitimate for others to differ.

A friend of mine (who happens to be a journalist) suggested that I engage in the current discussion on policing and reforming the Police. He reminded me that, in 2014, I participated in a “Black Lives Matter” demonstration when I was living in New York (working as the UN Police Adviser). The picture is from December 13, 2014:

25B8A860-8474-470B-BE49-C1FE4896F235

August 9, 2014, Michael Brown had been shot dead by a Police officer, in Ferguson. Earlier, July 17, 2014, Eric Garner died after being put into a chokehold by a Police officer, in New York City. I am singling out two out of many events that led to renewed calls for reforming policing in the United States. Both in the U.S. and internationally, brutal instances of police abuse of power, including most serious crimes, sparked outrage leading to large and peaceful demonstrations. The “Black Lives Matter” movement stems from there. As a human being, and at that time being a temporary resident in the United States, I joined my fellow American friends in their peaceful call for addressing systemic racism reflected in the Criminal Justice system, and through abuse of power through individual police officers.

Already at that time the reform discussion on policing had much deeper roots, and there is a direct line connecting the history and those days of 2014 with what happens today, 2020. However, today the outrage is amplified, and there are signs that the calls for reforming policing, and the Police, are, finally being heard. Good.

Yes, peaceful demonstrations are proving that they are one of the most essential means and an inalienable right for citizens to participate in a democratic discourse about issues that matter.  And the subject matter of discussion is genuinely international: A friend of mine reported about participating in a demonstration in Berlin last weekend, with estimated 15.000 participants. It is one of many current events in Europe and elsewhere. Societies including my own German society have undertaken to conduct a self-critical discourse on the question as to which extent policing over here may also be unduly influenced by racial bias. Good.

Would all of that have happened without large-scale demonstrations? In my view, absolutely not. That is, by the way, why those who do resist these reforms, individually and institutionally, fear the demonstrations and thus attempt to label them with anything that would allow for discrediting intent of the demonstrations, manipulation of the course of the demonstrations and how they unfold, and the malicious labeling of individuals taking part in such demonstrations. These attempts are being conducted through manipulation, establishing and spreading unverified claims, false facts and lies, and using and spreading conspiracy-mongering strategies.

Most respected former U.S. public servants, including retired military officials are voicing their deepest concern about those who have adopted well-honed strategies practiced by systems and autocrats all over the World which have been criticised for exactly doing this by the very same United States of America. Good, because I hope the light can shine again, soon, and credible.

It looks like the peaceful demonstrations are here to stay. Good. Double down.

The range of topics in that discussion leading to these demonstrations is highly complex and beset with an enormous amount of emotions. It is about racial bias. It is about white supremacy. It is about countless cases of individual suffering and fear. It is about wrongful convictions, and a system of biased mass-incarceration, especially targeting communities of color. It is about the question how policing should be carried out, and how to hold police officers and other public officials accountable for their actions, including criminal actions. And much much more.

Within the current context of the United States, the contemporary development also can only be understood if put into the context of a society that is literally devouring itself, unraveled by a political partisan war ripping the fabric of consent into pieces about what is identifying and unifying all Americans, and what is so-called “un-American behavior”. It may well be that both sides blame the other for being un-American. The World is in disbelief. The ripples of instability stemming from this development have long arrived at the shores of Europe, Africa, Asia, and elsewhere. They bounce back from there, hitting the United States’s shores on the Atlantic and Pacific sides. Will that all calm down and settle into a new order, and will this be done with, or without violence?

Certainly, COVID-19 may have been a spark that set many things on fire. Fire? Not good in light of Global Warming. Oh yes, Global Warming is a fact. So, please, let us settle for consentual discussions allowing the young generations of this World to define our and their present, and their future.

These discussions need to be narrowed down. Topics have to be identified which can be taken forward, notwithstanding the complexity of the development as a whole. And in my view, it is extremely critical to take emotions out of these discussions, and to avoid antagonisation as much as possible. At the end of the day, a society needs to find an own consentual way forward in which positions converge into acceptable compromises. For, otherwise, there is no societal peace. And we do know that, without peace, there is no security. With no security, there is more heat. We can’t blame others for our own disengagement. But we always have the choice to engage. That’s why I am quoting James Baldwin.

This includes reforming policing, and the Police. After having settled on what policing is, the question how to implement it, follows second. Third then, one needs to consider how to fund what we want, and to re-allocate funding to where it is needed, and to stop funding of issues which run counter the implementation of what a society wants. So, in this third step, it is about de-funding, being part of a funding, and a reallocation-of-funding debate.

I should be clear: There is no way to establish a society with no self-policing of the rules that this society has given itself.

The violent death of George Floyd is a crime, one police officer is charged for second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three police officers are charged with aiding and abetting murder. George Floyd was subjected to police action after he was alleged to have used a counterfeit 20 USD bill for buying cigarettes. The police action ended in eight minutes and fourty-five seconds of suffering inflicted by some of the most cruel behavior I have seen in a while. And believe me, I have seen a lot.

It started with a counterfeit 20 USD bill. Why was Eric Garner being put into a chokehold, again? Proportionality of enforcement will be a point I will touch upon, later.

But I will say here that the reform discussion is triggered not by these few cases only, but because of the allegation that such behavior is systemic. That, also, makes it understandable why some try to argue that these actions are single cases. Which is not true. Truth matters, so look it up yourselves.

Another point in this first writing, attempting to look at the scope:

200415-michigan-protest-video-tease__415481.focal-760x428This picture was taken April 15, 2020, at Michigan Capitol

Of course I am respecting that the United States hang on to the Second Amendment. I have a personal opinion (horror and disbelief that people protest against the COVID-19 lockdown whilst carrying weapons of war), and I can also assure you that in Germany such an event would have led to as many SWAT-units as are available coming down on what would be considered a violation of strict weapons laws. But, of course, this is legal in America, thus the protest can be considered a peaceful protest.

The question I want to ask: Do you see one Afro-American person in that picture? Take a second and imagine all the individuals being black. And then, honestly, answer the question whether the indifferent action of the Police on occasion of that event would have been the same. Honestly, please!

Chances are the reaction would have been very different. That’s what I was saying in my post “Statement in Solidarity“: “Representative policing aims to ensure that the human rights of all people, without distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, are protected, promoted and respected and that police personnel sufficiently reflect the community they serve.” At this moment, an overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens believes that this is not the case. Instead, we are facing a cultural form of racism, different in argument from previous forms of biological racism, but on grounds of the same attitude and thinking of white supremacy.

Statement in Solidarity

Floyd

With the “Report of the Secretary General on United Nations policing” to the United Nations Security Council as of 10 November 2016 (S2016/952), the United Nations adopted, for the first time ever, a common understanding of the function of policing, and how it must be carried out by police and law enforcement officials. This understanding can be found in https://police.un.org/en/policy-united-nations-police-peacekeeping-operations-and-special-political-missions-2014, Sections 14 to 19.

Policing refers to a function of governance responsible for the prevention, detection and investigation of crime; protection of persons and property; and the maintenance of public order and safety. Police and law enforcement officials have the obligation to respect and protect human rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reaffirmed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant instruments.

Pursuant to the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, police and other law enforcement officials are required, at all times, to fulfil the duty imposed upon them by law, by serving the community and by protecting all persons against illegal acts consistent with the high degree of responsibility required by their profession.

For the United Nations, the function of domestic policing must be entrusted to civil servants who are members of police or other law enforcement agencies of a national, regional or local government, within a legal framework that is based on the rule of law.

In accordance with United Nations standards, every police or other law enforcement agency should be representative of and responsive and accountable to the community it serves.

Representative policing aims to ensure that the human rights of all people, without distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, are protected, promoted and respected and that police personnel sufficiently reflect the community they serve. Fair and non-discriminatory recruitment and retention policies are expected to encourage, among other goals, an adequate participation of women and minority groups.

Responsive policing ensures that police respond to existing and emerging public needs and expectations, especially in preventing and detecting crime and maintaining public order and safety. Policing objectives are informed by the public safety concerns of the communities they serve and are attained lawfully, efficiently and effectively and in accordance with international norms and standards in crime prevention, criminal justice and human rights law.

Accountable policing means that police are accountable to the law, as are all individuals and institutions in States; that police are answerable to the public through the democratic and political institutions of the state, as well as through civilian democratic oversight bodies and mechanisms to improve community-police relations; that police are accountable for the way they use the resources allocated to them and that effective mechanisms are established for accountability over police conduct, including any allegations or established human rights violations committed by the police.

For the United Nations, the rule of law refers to a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.

 

As one of the chief architects of this United Nations policy, I stand in solidarity with the countless citizens, in the United States of America and all over the World, who exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully. I join them in expressing utter outrage in the face of widespread racism, white supremacy, and a systemic and horrifying abuse of power including most serious and heinous crimes by police officials against communities and individuals of color, and minorities.

I call on my fellow police colleagues to stand in humility and in support of the communities they serve, to walk with them, and to protect them. The streets belong to citizens peacefully exercising their rights and enjoying their freedom. They are neither a battle-ground to be dominated, nor a place for curfews preventing peaceful citizens to exercise their most basic human and citizen’s rights, including the freedom of opinion and speech. Curfews can only be possible under most serious and temporary circumstances.

No public official shall use his or her power for violently pushing peaceful citizens aside.

I call on my fellow police leaders to exercise a strict no-tolerance-policy towards acts of violence and the systemic disrespect of police officials towards the communities they are obliged to serve. No zero-tolerance-policy against violence and criminal conduct is legitimate in a democratic society if those who are mandated to serve and to protect peaceful citizens show no respect to the law, to the values underpinning the laws, and to fellow citizens, themselves.

I commend those police officers who apologize to victims of police violence and abuse of power, but I also say: You must work long and hard to earn back the respect of those citizens who have lost faith in you. You are meant to protect, rather than to be an instrument of “law & order”.

My heart goes with all victims of police abuse of power and horrible crimes including murder, conducted by individual police officers, supported by a cruel and self-serving, selfish and dividing attitude by those who believe they can exercise unrestrained power, rather than fulfilling an obligation to serve all citizens who have democratically elected them.

I am saddened, ashamed, and deeply sorry. I hope we can all breathe together.

 

Stefan Feller, Former United Nations Police Adviser and Director of the Police Division (2013 – 2017).

Berlin and Belgrade, June 06, 2020

A bone-crushing juggernaut

Should his own face in the mirror be too awful to contenplate (and it usually is), he might first take a look at the results normal people get from self-sufficiency. Everywhere he sees people filled with anger and fear, society breaking into warring fragments. Each fragment says to the others “We are right and you are wrong.” Every such pressure group, if it is strong enough, self-righteously imposes its will upon the rest. And everywhere the same thing is being done on an individual basis. The sum of all this mighty effort is less peace and less brotherhood than before. The philosophy of self-sufficiency is not paying off. Plainly enough, it is a bone-crushing juggernaut whose final achievement is ruin.”

Written by some very wise and fine people, in New York, 66 years ago

Standing united – standing up – speaking up

I am standing united with those who call the violence and the manslaughter in Charlottesville as what it is: The horrible and ugly face of white supremacists, nazis, and hateful far-right populists. At least some reason appears to be on the side of those who have a responsibility to unite, and to condemn, rather than taking sides in insidious ways: Sending an ambiguous message appeasing the far-right, from which they always can retract and blame "fake news", that's how it always began. Armageddon's hell hounds and their ideological manipulators need to be put back into the box, here, and worldwide, and now.

Since too long people ask how much worse it can get. I still refuse to believe that it may be too late. I can't stand any longer hearing voices that tone it down, and say that democracy is more vigilant than meets the eye. I have seen it too often that people wake up when it's too late.

We have a responsibility to not accept, and to speak the truth, otherwise history repeats itself. Violence and hate only create violence and hate. Democracy and humanity require active participation and protection. Kristallnaach was possible because of the silence of the many.

On Accountability

— "Thought provoking." — is what I noted late December 2014, having read Charles P. Pierce's piece "The CIA & NYPD: Perilous Insubordination In Our Democracy" in Esquire's online edition. Especially noteworthy I found the following statement: "The men who signed the Declaration had long experience with what happens when the legal and political institutions of a state, and the people charged with their operation, suddenly consider themselves above the civil power they are supposed to serve — which, or so said Mr. Jefferson of Virginia, derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. That, they saw, was the true danger to their liberties posed by the government of the colonies at that time."

United Nations peacekeeping operations face criticism, confronted with broad accusations of being unaccountable. Is that criticism justified? Is it not? How to gauge, to assess validity of the argument? How "much" unaccountability in order to agree, or what "minimum" standard in order to disagree? Attempting to respond is difficult: The defendant finds herself in a catch-22-situation, disputing the claim opens the rhetorical path to “See, guilty as charged". And do fact-based answers reach the same target audience that is been told we are broadly having an accountability problem? Does this matter to those who raise this concern? Casting this doubt has been combined with the argument that peacekeeping is too expensive. For starters: The roughly 7 billion USD that are left after a cut of nearly 9 % this year, they represent less than 0.05% of the annual worldwide expenditure into military.

However, the attack vector is political, responses that do not recognize this do fail. But does this mean that critics can be politically incorrect, loud, aggressive, lamenting, or pushy, and that factual answers fail to reach the emotional realm of an angry audience that is already geared up against anything alien? Repetition does not increase validity, or does it?

There is no alternative to fact-checking. So here I go:

Accountability is a core principle of the United Nations and I hold myself to account for the area that UN Police represent: Accountability is a key concept for international policing of the UN. We do assist policing systems which are troubled by emerging conflict, have been disrupted by conflict, or have been part of conflict. We strive for leading them onto a path towards a policing model based on humanitarian and democratic values, accountable to the people they serve.

The General Assembly (composed of all member States of the UN) defined accountability in its Resolution 64/259 as “the obligation of the Secretariat and its staff members to be answerable for all decisions made and actions taken by them, and to be responsible for honouring their commitments, without qualification or exception.” Further, the General Assembly enumerates core elements of accountability, including “achieving objectives and high-quality results in a timely and cost-effective manner, in fully implementing and delivering on all mandates to the Secretariat approved by the United Nations intergovernmental bodies and other subsidiary organs established by them in compliance with all resolutions, regulations, rules and ethical standards; truthful, objective, accurate and timely reporting on performance results; responsible stewardship of funds and resources; all aspects of performance, including a clearly defined system of rewards and sanctions; and with due recognition to the important role of the oversight bodies and in full compliance with accepted recommendations.” At a minimum, an accountability framework within the United Nations context has to consist of i) a political covenant with Member States which provide to the organization the institutional mandates, priorities/guidance and the resources to implement those priorities; ii) internal controls (pro-active elements); and iii) complaints and response mechanisms (reactive elements).

Using the term "accountability" requires a context, as otherwise it can mean anything. Examining accountability therefore always needs to include answers to (1) "Who is accountable to whom?"; (2) "What is the liability one is being held accountable for?"; and (3) "What are the underpinning values?".

The United Nations defines “policing” as a function of governance responsible for the prevention, detection and investigation of crime; the protection of persons and property; and the maintenance of public order and safety. Policing must be entrusted to civil servants who are members of police or other law enforcement agencies of national, regional or local governments, within a legal framework that is based on the rule of law.

In elaborating on the institutions that should be entrusted with the function of policing, the Strategic Guidance Framework for UN policing says: In accordance with United Nations standards, every police or other law enforcement agency should be representative of and responsive and accountable to the community it serves.

The above paragraphs reflect the work of many years. Much of this work has been invested into a dialogue with experts and the political constituency of the United Nations: The member States. There are those who question the length of coming to terms with a common reference. In any multinational organization consent requires time, and patience. With 193 member States, the UN belongs to the largest multinational organizations, so the duration of a process soliciting agreement on fundamental principles that affect people all over the World comes as no surprise. The alternative would be that either (1) UN police continue to have no common reference at all, or (2) unilateral or multilateral understandings would continue to prevail: Some of us would be more equal than others, self-righteously defining how we see the world of policing. It would result in repelling such an imposition, thus it would result in fragmentation. Of this, we have already too much.
One core value of the United Nations is it’s capacity and legitimacy representing all of us, rather than particular interests. To have a common understanding of what policing is, how it should be performed, and how the police should be held accountable, is huge.

It includes accountability, explicitly and as a core element of what we call the Strategic Guidance Framework for UN international policing, meticulously described in every aspect of our work. We currently work on a robust framework how we, United Nations police, want to be held accountable ourselves. That is especially relevant because we have a fourfold liability:

  1. To the civilians that we protect;
  2. To the legitimate institutions that we assist in their development;
  3. To those who mandate us with doing that: The Security Council;
  4. To the Police Contributing Countries who give us their best women and men.

We have put into a modern and worldwide understanding what founding fathers of modern societies serving their people have had on their minds: …what happens when the legal and political institutions of a State, and the people charged with their operation, suddenly consider themselves above the civil power they are supposed to serve, which … derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. But why did I begin with this quote? Because in societies that do not suffer from contemporary conflicts, but who are affected by it in their security, we easily take for granted values which are the achievements of centuries, if not millennia. Who would believe that war could break out in, say, Canada, or that injustice and disruption of democratic principles could happen in, say, France? We have taken the principles of our founding fathers for granted.

By contrast, UN police witnesses what happens where fundamental values are absent. Who believes that it is enough to have them enshrined in some constitutional and legal documents, and that it will take a long way to erode them: History, including the most recent past, provides an uncomfortably high number of country situations where such naive assessment is proven painfully wrong. That is why our common striving for a better World as One is more important than perhaps ever before, and why each and everyone needs to critically reflect on whether enough accountability ensures the checks and balances of a system where the rule of law prevails. The opposite of the rule of law is the rule of the powerful.

The Moment of Truth

This is a blog in which I express my personal opinion.  At the end of the day, I am used to a restraint coming from being a public servant since fourty years, but there are things that need to be said.

I have watched the development on occasion of the upcoming U.S. Presidential Elections with an increasing amount of worry. I guess I am kind of witnessing what many did: First, I did not take the loudness, the bombastic self representation, the simplified language for four-year-olds, serious. I was kind of laughing at it, like many. Reading the blogs, the increasing amount of stories got amusing. Then annoying. Then worrying. Then scary. Yet, like all, I was devouring these stories, with disgust.

In December, late December, there was a climax in these stories and in the hate and xenophobia being expressed, something that appeared to go over the top, people were shocked, other people ranted and showed raw emotions of hate for everything alien, everything black, everything Mexican, everything Muslim. Then, for a few weeks, there was a sort of silence. It was like sobering up from getting drunk on all these stories we had gotten used to read, with mad fascination. 

Some said that perhaps they had enough, that the Republican Party might have had enough. For a few days, there was silence, and some believed that somebody had silently taken the gloves offs, saying “Shut up, now”.

I was skeptical. I saw everything from a perspective of a calculated rant undertaken by a demagogue, that we see somebody exploiting democracy and its weaknesses in plain sight. I guess I was very right. We see what is happening in the primaries. We see a terrible, horrible, disgusting, hate- and spiteful demagogy rising. We see somebody rising to becoming the nominee of his Party for the Office of the President of the United States who has no hesitation to top it all out. People realize this is getting real. There is this strange acceptance: “Well, so be it. Then Hillary has to beat him.” But what if she does not? Then, silence, like sheepish acceptance: At the end, it’s democracy in the works. 

Yesterday, I was remembering what I have read about how his political rallies are: We all have seen black Americans and Muslim Americans opposing his stances in these events, with democratic means. Wonderful people, true Americans. We all have seen that the climate of these events is of a kind that people with opposing opinions will not be tolerated, will be sent back by security if identified, or being thrown out in case of their expression of opposing opinion. Sometimes they will be handled roughly, with thinly veiled triumph from the podium, if veiled at all.

I remembered what happened in Weimar. They used these security guards as well. Later on then, after Hitler won, they changed the color of their uniforms from brown to black. Those who did beat people up during the campaigns, they became members of Armageddon’s hellish armies.  All of a sudden, all my memory of how things went in the Weimar Republic, when it was taken over in the open by a demagogue who did not withhold any of his intentions, all that came up. There is a reason in post-war Germany why we use the term “wehrhafte Demokratie” for a form of constitutional setup which enables our democracy to act against demagogues who try to undermine it, to destroy it: The reason is that the Weimar Republic got destroyed this way. We woke up after the Holocaust.

And then I read this article below. Read it! Please. Read it! It is one of the best articles I have read in a long while, and I could not agree more. I was almost relieved that somebody with a U.S. passport said what I felt, with a great unease.

The moment of truth: We must stop Trump https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/moment-of-truth-we-must-stop-trump/2016/02/21/0172e788-d8a7-11e5-925f-1d10062cc82d_story.html

It is time, really time, to stand up and to say “No”. And to say it loudly. 

Already in December I said that the damage done even if this candidate won’t make it is already too much. Now, towards end of February and in the middle of the primaries, the divisions in this country go deeper than ever. The moderate and reasonable people need to speak up, now, and loudly. There needs to be a debate. It needs to be inclusive. All those who have begun to follow this demagogue, they need to be able to reconcile. It will be hard for them to admit they were following a demagogue. It’s typical for conservative minds that they will not admit a mistake of this kind. It’s typical for many other people, too. It’s basic human psychology. But reconciliation of this division will require being gentle with each other, Democrats and Republicans. Otherwise the divisions will persist.

Just dreaming. In case this nightmare would end. It’s up to us All to end it. I really hope it does. This man is young enough to try it again, in four or eight years, if he does not succeed now.

On Aspects of Security, Crime, and Crime Control

Dear reader, I am deeply sorry: I took all the juicy case studies out! So this is the condense, admittedly very intense version of reading, without the narrative of why we find ourselves in situations like these. My professional line of work is political, and I will not mix this part with what I can say, in my personal capacity, in public, and what I can say simply because we All say this. The interrelationship is obvious, and the message needs to get out: There is no alternative to assisting in overcoming conflicts that are so different from what we have seen before. Neither there is an alternative to containing such conflicts, nor to assistance building the capacity in these States.

Just this afternoon, I was asked to brief a group of national politicians visiting the UN. Not only that all were surprised about what we do, I had to find answer to the question: “Why are we doing all this?”

My answer is the same like the United Nations military Force Commander of our Mission MINUSCA in Mali used, when he was asked “Why?’, in a BBC video. His reply at the end of this video, which by the way depicts many UNPOL officers: “Because no one else does it“.

 

So, again, here you go:

In every society, two major forces drive the construction of mechanisms that realize the provision of security, maintenance of order, and adjudication of justice: Consent and imposition. All systems establish variations of this, except on some occasions their two most extreme forms: Pure anarchy and pure dictatorship. Democratic systems strive for maximum consent. Member States of the UN establish variations which the UN must accept, within fundamental boundaries of least common denominators, passionately working on achieving more common ground.

The results in all chosen variations, the rich diversity that one can see within all Member States of the UN, includes the notion of the specific values and the cultural context underpinning the fabric of chosen forms of governance: How a specific system of providing security and justice is set up depends on the history, including that of values, in a society.

From a UN policing perspective, this understanding is critically important for providing security, and addressing the nexus between crime and crime control: Except for cases of internationally defined crime, like for example, crime against humanity, or genocide, common definitions vary in every local context. The legal definition of human action which is commonly considered constituting an act of less grievous crime will, at best, be similar. Likewise, and perhaps more importantly, the understanding of how a given society wants to deal with providing security for its citizens and with crime control varies. The definition of a crime fitting into the category of, say, sexual exploitation and abuse, differs as much from one local context to another as the way how to prevent, to investigate, to prosecute, how to punish, and how to deal with perpetrators and victims during that process, and in the aftermath.

Thus, for capacity building it is critical to find a common denominator, a consensus for all, on the side of those who rebuild, and the side of those who assist. Driven by the fundamental values underpinning the UN, UNPOL strives for the maximum, rather than the least common denominator. This holds true for the substance of assistance, but also for the methodology of how to assist: In absence of any common denominator, there otherwise is a less homogenous (at best) group of different experts with a national background, applying some “coherence” borne from pragmatism and realpolitik in any given situation. The frequent rotation of international personnel adds. These last two dry sentences carry the weight of experiences of countless situations in every single peace operation of all international organizations, describing the limitations of such well-meant and best intended, but limited approaches.

Rarely, a change in the national composition of peacekeepers assisting in capacity building will leave longer term concepts of implementation unaffected. Alternatives, such as specialized teams made from coherent professional background, perhaps even from neighboring security and justice systems, may alleviate this problem, but still a joint conceptual understanding is necessary for any organization composed of staff from the many different Member States of the UN. Sustainability of impact depends on coherence, vision, strategy, and partnership. This is why the development of the United Nations Police Strategic Guidance Framework SGF sits at the core of all long-term work of the Police Division.

Contemporary challenges as described in this chapter make it even more challenging to act without a joint conceptual framework, if one looks at the duration of assistance needed, of which PKO and SPM are only a part, and the complexity of interwoven factors. More recent history provides a few examples for a coherent national and complex, long lasting assistance scheme. One example for such cases is the German reunification after 1989, leading to intense and very costly partnerships between German States from the former “West Germany”, and their new partners from the East, integrating themselves with assistance into the reunited Germany as of today.  Some States have taken responsibility for assistance in their geographic region, as for example Australia does admirably in the case of Timor Leste, and other neighbors. The UN system does not work like that, it requires a broader participation, and it should, at least as a whole, represent the contribution of efforts of the entire constituency.

It also has been shown in earlier chapters to which extent policing in PKO and SPM co-exists with policing capacity and expertise provided by AU and EU, or bilaterally. But even where the UN system builds on regional contributions, the challenge of harmonization, coherence of policy and ability to contribute through trained expertise is extremely demanding. And lastly, the UN system of peace operations can not solely implement mandates by taking recourse to national support efforts, including those of willing neighbors, for many reasons. These efforts can be very useful and important, but will always need to be a part. The whole, therefore, requires a common denominator.

The common denominator for UN policing begins with an understanding of what policing and the rule of law are about, in our work, and as a prerogative for any assistance to domestic capacity building. On its uppermost level it is described within the policy document “United Nations Police in Peacekeeping Operations and Special Political Missions⁠1“, our entry point into the Strategic Guidance Framework:

(1) “For the United Nations, the rule of law refers to a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency⁠2.

(2)Policing refers to a function of governance responsible for the prevention, detection and investigation of crime; protection of persons and property; and the maintenance of public order and safety. Police and law enforcement officials have the obligation to respect and protect human rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reaffirmed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other relevant instruments. Pursuant to the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, police and other law enforcement officials are required, at all times, to fullfil the duty imposed upon them by law, by serving the community and by protecting all persons against illegal acts, consistent with the high degree of responsibility required by their profession.⁠3

This is why the strategic focus of the SGF has always been finding a way how to harmonize the assistance, using the rich experience of the many different cultures of policing, but striving for separating this from the less guided and less homogenous use of diversity of expertise stemming from local contexts within the countries UNPOL officers come from: Like a Police Director in a host country that witnessed almost seventeen years of police capacity building assistance, sitting at the helm of the local version of an FBI, once said to a new incoming Chief Adviser: “You are the umpteenth new Chief Adviser to me. Which new wisdom do you bring to my office?” This sentence both reflects the critical importance of finding the right duration of assistance, but equally important the harmonization needs, and preventing these harmonization needs from reaching levels of detail which should be entirely left to local emanation of concepts.

But what if the prerogative for assistance to capacity building is not there? What if the reality on the ground, for a variety of reasons, inhibits efforts to build capacity, whilst the very threats for peace and security, against which this domestic capacity is so direly needed, is on the rise? What if, therefore, peacekeeping finds itself in a protracted period of having to contain a situation, including the protection of civilians, whilst actors who threaten the very peace process are including non-identifiable parties to the conflict?

Contemporary United Nations multidimensional mandates often include, amongst other tasks of peacekeeping operations, the tasks of protecting civilians, and capacity building. From a security perspective the military and police components of these PKO contribute to containing a given situation of conflict, or stemming from conflict. They apply deterrence, and to some extent coercion in an effort to give a political process space, towards peace and security. The momentous task lies with that these missions need to move a political process, utilizing the impact and momentum generated by such containment. This requires to support domestic capacity building, and begins already with the interrelationship with domestic actors on the protection of civilians. It can be a complex “jumpstart” process, from disorder into a structured “pathfinding”, leading to appropriate solutions supporting the begin of regular capacity building⁠4.

A comprehensive case study identifies several different challenges for UNPOL:

(1) In a group of UN peace operations, the path into gaining results from capacity building for the peace process is not opened yet, stuck, or seriously impeded in its conceptualization and operationalization, due to a variety of reasons;

(2) In some of the above situations these deficiencies are conducive to a (re)surge of violent extremism and terror stemming from regional and global connections, producing regional and global consequences;

(3) More recently, crime plays an increasing role, in collaboration with violent extremism, and terror;

(4) UNPOL is challenged beyond a more classical understanding of it’s role in protecting civilians, and capacity building, as a consequence of the impact of crime to the instability and threat to the host State, mission mandate, and mission personnel.

When describing these challenges, the successful cases tend to disappear towards the back row. However, the successful cases of Bosnia&Herzegovina, Kosovo, Timor Leste, Sierra Leone, they exist. Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, they are situations aspiring to be added to the group of successful country situations.

Yet, these contemporary cases stand out: Crime has become a pressing component of threats against peace and security, and peace operations. At the same time the path into capacity building is severely hampered by this very crime, violent extremism, and terror. The scenario resembles the scenario of asymmetric war fighting: Neither are conventional military responses developed for symmetric wars capable means for asymmetric military situations, nor is a political effort of promoting peace, including through assistance to capacity building, effective if it can not address the asymmetric attacks which come from the nexus of crime, violent extremism, and terror. PKO and SPM alike in these situations operate under the same challenges as were confronting the International Community in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Prognosis

(a) From emerging experience with these cases, and monitoring the development in Africa and the Middle East, there is indication that such cases constitute a trend. Country situations in which UNPOL in PKO and SPM are deployed have a regional context with neighbors which face similar trajectories. The relevant crime dimension never acts local, but at least regional, and often in a global context, as the dimensions of violent extremism and terror do, too.

(b) In relation to PKO and SPM, criminals and an increasingly large group of extremists promoting violence and terror are not recognized parties to the conflict, or are excluded from being part of the peace process because of their terrorist affiliation, or are hiding in plain sight, being part of peace mediation efforts, but having second agendas motivated by crime, and corruption. Efforts of capacity building get prolonged, if started at all, and the encompassing deterioration of the security and overall situation weakens the credibility of peace operations. Direct and increasingly often lethal attacks against peacekeepers thus, in this anticipation, may become the worrying norm. Crime in the form of Serious and Organized Crime SOC has begun to play a new role in contributing to drivers of conflict, threatening peace processes. Our work on establishing conducive environments for building peace and security is affected by the nexus between crime, violent extremism, and terror,⁠7 all benefitting from what we understand as endemic corruption.

Nation States are the constituting elements of contemporary international order. This system calls for restoration of (legitimate) State authority in a case of post-conflict engagement by peace operations. In an era of globalization, these elements of consent and control, however, are fundamentally challenged by non State actors who act regional, and global, including through using means of the borderless Internet. The notion of a “global village” is wrong. It’s more looking like a global paradigm change, with all the chaotic phases that come with these.

In an earlier article⁠8 I wrote: “In most UN peace operations, we see security and justice institutions incapacitated by conflict. Establishing sustainable governance in communities, nations and states is a core element in the process of achieving peace and security.

While the mandate implementation plan of a peace operation is adapted to both its local and regional context, every conflict into which we deploy is also tied to a global context. The global drivers of conflict are thus interconnected with each and every peace operation. Awareness of these undercurrents, including for example the collaboration of transnational organized crime with extremists and terrorists, is critical in preparing modern peace operations to effectively discharge their mandate and help put fragile countries emerging from conflict on the road towards sustainable peace and security.

What needs to be added is the impact of global, instantaneous Internet-based communication. The awareness of the impact of social networks in contemporary spreading of violent extremism, for example, only gradually emerges.

Against such a prognosis, there is however no known alternative to capacity building within the context of restoring order, security, and a rule of law. Without assistance, countries emerging from conflict, or struggling with regional dimensions of global conflict, are left to their own devices. Such a worst case scenario does not lead to only local conflict dimensions, but has profound global consequences that affect the entire community of States, through crime, and migration of millions of the Worlds’ poorest and least fortunate, victims of unimaginable violence. The impact of this on societies receiving this traumatized and disillusioned scarred constituency has just begun. Receiving States appear to be on the defense. Migrating victims may carry hope of survival, but not the memory of a State caring about their even most basic rights and needs. The breeding battle of xenophobia reverberates between violent fundamentalists and terror on one side and voices on the side of States affected by the export of crime and terror on the other side. It leads to a chicken-and-egg situation, and only to entrenchment.

To affected communities in conflict-torn States, crime offers alternative livelihood for the disillusioned and tormented. Violent extremism, on the other hand, pays off for subordination by offering social services that States threatened by it did not render, and now can not render. Prevention, deterrence, and perspectives for livelihood fail.

____________________

1 United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Department of Field Support; Ref. 2014.01; 01 February 2014; http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/sites/police/documents/Policy.pdf

2 Ibid; Footnote 6, pg. 5, referencing the Report of the Secretary-General on the Rule of Law and Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies (S/2004/616)

3 Ibid; Para. 14

4 One very demanding example was UNMIK: Since 1999, UNMIK in Kosovo was given extensive executive powers. UNPOL on UNMIK’s side worked in close collaboration with military NATO units of KFOR, in protecting civilians, and substituting for the absence of legitimate authority, on all levels. UNMIK was the executive police in Kosovo, whilst establishing the domestic Kosovo police was its main long term objective. But since the entire system of criminal justice and detention had broken down, UNMIK had to chart a new path, from the absence of justice towards a system ensuring transitional and regular justice. All chapters of how to do this were written without blueprint. They include the prevention of most serious crime at a time when no viable judicial mechanism was in place. However, UNMIK had legal power to create law, including criminal and criminal procedural law, which set this mission apart from any recent development. It included an entire internationally staffed UNMIK Department of Justice and likewise a Department of Corrections, and allowed a path towards the establishment of a rule of law system that was incrementally capable to correspond to the actions undertaken by UNPOL, and later on the Kosovo police.

5 Very good reading: Rebellion and fragmentation in northern Mali; CRU Report March 2015; Clingendael Institute; Netherlands

http://www.clingendael.nl/pub/2015/the_roots_of_malis_conflict/2_rebellion_and_fragmentation_in_northern_mali/

6 Ibid,

7 See, for example, as mentioned in the chapter on SPM: Report of the SG on overall policy matters pertaining to special political missions: http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/N1341359.pdf

Last access January 18, 2016

Also see UNSCR 2185: 26. Encourages information sharing, where relevant and appropriate, between Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations including its Police Division, the Department of Political Affairs, the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and the United Nations Development Program, within existing mandates and resources, when considering means to address, in a comprehensive and integrated manner, transnational organized crime, terrorism and violent extremism which can be conducive to terrorism;

8 Stefan Feller; UN Police, International Crime and Terrorism; Huffington Post 2015; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stefan-feller/un-police-international-c_b_6670430.html