On storytelling

Like others before, I have reached a point where I give up hesitating to add my voice on dangers inflicted on all of us by the current incumbent of the Office of the President of the United States of America. As a former public servant I feel like many former holders of office in the U.S., staying out of a polarised antagonizing debate. But like others, I see that I can not uphold this reservation any longer. However, I am not doing this because I want to join the polarised army of do-gooders. I am doing this because I want to make a point by saying that, potentially, an important piece in the puzzle explaining what is happening may still be missing. A piece which might help in better predicting of what will happen in the weeks and months ahead.

October 5, 2020: Over my last tea before falling asleep I watched news about the President of the United States returning to the White House from Walter Reed Hospital despite a still ongoing medical treatment of a Covid-19-infection which had led to a hospitalisation just a few days earlier. I could see the story he was about to tell already in his preceeding tweets in which he spoke so ominously about what he had learned, that he really got it, and how good he feels. He was prepping his followership for the pathetic show ahead.

The evening news carried the story of him returning to the White House. From everything medical experts can tell, it is near certain that he continued to be contagious when he, in a premeditated way walking up an illuminated stairway to the second level of the White House, took off his face-mask with a pompous fake gesture of dignity, saluting Marine One as the helicopter flew off. Like to millions of other people it looked ridiculously childish and immature to me, but it was a calculated gesture aiming for a core audience within his base of followers: The believers and superspreaders of conspiracy theories that elevate him to the protector of the American people against all evil, including the monsters from Avengers’ Endgame lurking at the fences of the White House premises. Equal “monsters” with “Dems” and “Fake Press”, then you have the story he tells, and further develops.

I consumed the outrage and frenzy of the press about it, including about his callous calling on the American people not to take the virus too seriously, through some Twitter messages earlier that evening, before he left Walter Reed Hospital.

Then I woke up the following morning and I watched the news about his re-playing the helicopter salutation after Marine One had left. The aim was to shoot “proper” footage that could be used for a pompous and manipulative display of his godly return to the office for his followers. The news read: “Infected Trump re-shoots entrance into White House with camera crew https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2020/10/05/trump-no-mask-white-house-camera-crew-balcony-collins-lklv-ebof-vpx.cnn“. The polarized press acted on it either with messages of appreciation, or, like the above, with ever louder outrage. I watched anchormen and commenters in utter exasperation, displaying helplessness, and fury, literally with tears in their eyes, in light of more than 200.000 Covid-19-deaths in the U.S. alone, at that time, and still counting.

Many of those who read my blog have watched that by themselves, so what is my point? What is the additional thing that makes this blog entry standing apart from just being another outcry of anger and hurt? In order to see where Trump is going, one needs to understand the inner workings of his mind first. Much has been said there, some has not. I am venturing into the part which has not been said, as far as I can tell.

Throughout October 6 it quickly transpired that the pompous setup of the night before was to support establishing the storytelling narrative of a heroic selfless leader who went through all this at the virtual frontline of an alleged pandemic for his people. Or so he told through his Twitterphone. My point is that this, at best, may be only half of the truth. At worse, it may be a by-product of something much more serious: A high-risk gambling pattern that can be identified in Trump’s life on uncounted occasions, and including as recent as during the last elections. It is not only that Donald Trump re-invents himself in a situation of financial or political bancruptcy. I suspect that he may, consciously or not, create the situations from which he then seemingly escapes, demonstrating his “unique capacity” to re-define himself against all odds. I suspect that he may have no choice but doing just that, because he may need that kick.

We know from psychological experts that he appears to be on the extreme end of a narcissistic scale, and that he is absolutely incapable to empathise, which is also an indication for a severe sociopathic disorder. However, stories like the above make me believe that he, in addition, may carry the hallmarks of a severe addiction disorder.

Trump has a track record of being at his best in manipulating a situation when everyone believes that he already has lost the battle, by appearing to foolishly placing the noose around his own neck. Think, for example, the second debate at the eve of the 2016 elections: Remember the Locker Room Talks? I believe that he may actively get himself into these seemingly foolish situations because he needs the kick from a high-risk gamble which, at the end, needs to demonstrate his superiority. The more often he is winning this game, the more often he needs it, and the deeper his own delusional belief in his superiority. If I look at the super-spreader event one week earlier in the Rose Garden when he announced his candidate for the vacancy at the U.S. Supreme Court, I can not help but ask: How much of this carelessness is based on delusional thinking, how much is based on cold-blooded knowledge, and how much is based on the mindblowingly selfish and destructive, reality-denying mind of an addict who has no means to stop doing whatever is needed for getting the kick? We know from troves of scientific research, as well as from all practical experience represented by recovering addicts that the strongest kicks come from behavioral addictive patterns, not from substance abuse. You can be an addict of the worst kind, destroying yourself and others, without drinking, smoking, or doing drugs.

In this version of attempting to explain what happened, Trump literally would have no choice: He would have to get the virus, to run the risks involved because there was no other way to get the next kick. Like the heroin addict knowing there is a risk of OD’ing, and a part of that person’s mind even hoping that this is happening.

This is like to create the rabbit hole yourself that you then slide down. Success reinforces his belief in his superiority, and at the very same time, the ever deepening craving to feel more of the kick, again. In this vicious cycle, nothing is good enough for repetition, the kick requires more of the same, in ever increasing doses, and in ever shorter cycles.

We may witness the moment of history giving birth to an autocrat of the most dangerous kind: A person suffering from the combined delusional effects stemming from narcissism, sociopathic disorder, and behavioral addiction to power and extreme forms of gambling: The narcissist persona requires the constant need of being validated as superior and invincible. The sociopath persona provides the cold-blooded analytical capability of knowing how to manipulate other people for reckless application of own selfish needs only. Remember: Sociopaths are masters in identifying the weak and blind spots of empaths. They have a PhD in manipulation sciences. But the addict persona adds the need for the kick through high-risk gambling, as we have seen in the 2016 elections, and everything before, and after, until today.

The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was clearly exasperated when she, on October 7, spoke about the potential impact of steroids on the President’s thinking and decisionmaking as he was telling his negotiators to walk away from talks on a stimulus package relieving American people from economic effects of the Covid-19-pandemic. If my contribution to explaining Donald Trump’s behavior is correct, this may be true, but only be a part of the story: The other part is the elated feeling coming from a mind-altering drug which is produced by the body itself: Dopamine. I highly reccommend the book “The Deepest Well” by Nadine Burke Harris. Read what she has to say on the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences on, in this case, the Ventral Tegmental Area of the human brain.

Assuming the above scenario is true, what would be different compared to what we already know? In this scenario

(1) Trump’s unwillingness to concede any defeat has to be understood as an absolute inability to concede defeat;

(2) The delusional storytelling creates a personal world in which leaving the White House is impossible to even think about. It is a mental no-go-area, the option of walking out with dignity does not exist. Myriads of options exist how to make it happen to stay, and to get kicks all along the way;

(3) Meaning that, if that would be true, any assessment characterizing his mental state as “panicking” would need correction. Because, how fatigued must a 74-year-old be after a life with so many panicking moments? No, it is not fatiguing, it is creating a kick;

(4) Meaning that, if that would be true, we see the progressive part. The need for a kick comes in shorter intervals, and the dose needs to be much higher in order to achieve any effect. That then constitutes the real danger for the American people, and the World;

(5) How could the above be proven? In theory, that is easy: Take away his Twitterphone and you will see the effects of withdrawal. In practice, it is impossible: Try to take away the Twittertoy from the President of the United States, and you will be in trouble.

The reckless insane behavior of this incumbent of the great Office of the President of the United States puts not only my values, but my life, and the life of my children at grave risk. I am not morally judging Donald Trump. Many of my blog entries are being motivated by the desire to understand the devastating impact of a brain disease called “addiction“. I feel great pity and compassion for Donald Trump. The problem: This person has a “red button” at close range, carried around by an aide whereever the President goes.

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:

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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.