Peacekeeping: Replacing Troops With Police

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July 1, 2006: The big new thing for peacekeeping missions are police units, full of people selected and trained to deal with keeping the peace, after the peacekeeping troops have put down most of the violent groups that caused the unrest in the first place. It's now realized that, in the long term, the biggest need for peacekeeping missions is not troops, but police. Looking back at peacekeeping operations over the last century, it was noted that the need for soldiers was usually brief. The irregular fighters opposing the peacekeeper troops were rarely able to withstand the professional soldiers. The irregulars were quickly dispersed. But the gunmen are still there, and are now more of a police, than a military, problem. The bad guys in civilian clothes, still armed, and still up to no good, have to be dealt with.

The UN had 27 FPUs (Formed Police Units), containing 3,105 peacekeeper police, at the end of 2005. At full strength, each FPU has 125 police, led by a UN police commissioner. Each FPU costs about $4.2 million a year to operate. An equal number of UN peacekeeping troops costs about five million dollars a year. Moreover, only about half the troops are on the street at any given time, while 80 percent of the police are out there. Since peacekeeping, after the initial military operations, is mainly a police job, the FPUs are much more effective, man for man, than troops.

There are also larger, and more expensive, police units, formed by the UN, NATO and the EU. The NATO MSUs (Multinational Specialized Units) have from 250 to 600 personnel each, and are more heavily armed than FPUs. They, like their UN equivalents, are SPUs (stability police units). The European Union has its IPUs (Integrated Police Units). These more heavily armed, and better paid, organizations are actually paramilitary, and are used to bridge the gap between the arrival of peacekeeping troops, and the deployment of FPUs for keeping things quiet until local police forces can be rebuilt.

While the concept of peacekeeper police has been a successful one, it still depends on adequate training and leadership. When these fail, as they too often do with multinational efforts, there are problems. As with poorly trained and led peacekeeping troops, ill-prepared cops can suffer from corruption and abuse of power problems. That, however, is a constant problem that does not take away from the superiority of the peacekeeping police concept.

 


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