Civpol Certification: A Model for Recruitment and Training of Civilian Police Monitors

By Latham, Elizabeth Jean | World Affairs, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Civpol Certification: A Model for Recruitment and Training of Civilian Police Monitors


Latham, Elizabeth Jean, World Affairs


Warfare and crisis shatter social constraints to crime and violence.(1) The absence of social restraint is not conducive to rebuilding a society that has been ripped apart by conflict. So that people may begin rebuilding their communities, United Nations civilian policing (Civpol) missions help to restore the rule of law through monitoring, training, and reforming local law enforcement structures.

Current methods of recruiting and training Civpol monitors have proved to be inadequate. Because few nations have a surplus of police officers, there is a shortage of officers to staff monitoring missions. Also, professional standards of police vary drastically throughout the world, resulting in unqualified officers' being sent on Civpol missions. However, if all officers met the qualifications outlined by the United Nations, they would still lack some of the fundamental skills necessary to effectively perform duties assigned to Civpol. To alleviate current staffing problems, it is necessary to address both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of recruiting. Quantitatively, dependence on active duty police forces of UN member states must be eliminated. Qualitatively, a comprehensive training program must be developed. My framework for Civpol certification addresses both issues by offering training and certification in Civpol tasks, regardless of police experience. The certification model would make Civpol a more effective instrument of criminal justice reform while retaining its multinational and multidimensional aspects.

Civpol officers are assembled from law enforcement agencies in UN member states when the secretary general asks for police officers to carry out a UN Security Council resolution. Resolutions typically authorize intervention or assistance (peace operations) to nations where conflicts are occurring. Although traditional peacekeeping operations deal with monitoring cease-fire agreements between combatants, multifunctional peace operations attempt to rebuild the civil foundations of societies. Law and order are necessary to the rebuilding process. Because there is usually some internal security infrastructure in place, most Civpol mandates include monitoring local law enforcement to ensure compliance with human rights and other legal mandates; training local law enforcement officers; ensuring free and fair elections; supporting programs for reform or creation of local police forces; investigating alleged human rights violations; and assisting in institution building.(2)

Although Civpol was originally warranted because military personnel were not trained for day-to-day law enforcement activities, police are unable to stop massive civil unrest or to operate in warlike environments. There are some police tasks that are better accomplished by soldiers until the society becomes demilitarized. Police duties, especially in the initial post-conflict period, should focus on crime prevention and investigation, which will help local law enforcement agents gain the trust of the local population as well as restore law and order.

Civpol is deployed to encourage local police forces to return to the rule of law. As its task is often to demilitarize and reform local law enforcement agencies, it is important that Civpol should not be used by the United Nations to "augment its military forces."(4) The Civpol contingent is not mandated or trained to be a rapid exit strategy for military forces. Civpol is usually tasked only with ensuring compliance with international standards.(5) Although Civpol will work to establish law and order, its presence must not discourage the military from performing its task of ensuring a "secure environment in which the civilian components can work."(6) In other words, in the absence of a peaceful local authority, me military must retain primary responsibility for overall security. This includes tasks such as the arrest of criminals and riot control in areas of conflict. …

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