Small Wars Journal

The Missing Mission: Expeditionary Police for Peacekeeping and Transnational Stability

Wed, 05/09/2007 - 7:07am
On Wednesday, April 11, 2007 U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg if some of the city's police could be deployed with the U.N. for peacekeeping missions. This question succinctly points to the need to develop and deploy new transnational police capabilities to address global threats such as insurgency, terrorism, and the disorder that results from failed states.

Underlying the secretary-general's request is the stark fact that the distinctions between crime and war are blurring. Insurgents, genocidiares, and their terrorist cousins challenge the state monopoly on violence. Increasingly, they do so in conjunction with criminal enterprises: gangs and organized crime. Recognizing this, the U.N. is seeking international police to participate in its 16 peacekeeping missions around the world.

Yet, much more is needed than individual police officers. The current global situation calls for new security capabilities. Peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and related activities are important elements of global security. Typically military forces are deployed to address conflict and quell hostilities. Often they are augmented by civilian police (CIVPOL) to foster order and the transition to stability. But in today's world, strategic crime can challenge a state's solvency. Lawlessness and disorder in a single failed state can spark a regional conflagration. More robust and agile capabilities are required.

Military forces have much to offer, but are rarely configured to sustain long-term policing and crime control capabilities. Conventional militaries are designed to fight other militaries not police the streets of a community or investigate complex criminal conspiracies. Policing involves a complex set of social control skills and community interaction. Community policing activities help identify threats and criminal enterprises, but more importantly they help sustain public order and secure communities—a prerequisite to functional states.

Both military and police capabilities are required to address complex hostile situations at acute phases of the conflict spectrum. Yet, the nature and range of skills required for effective social control during armed insurrection and active hostility is more than a typical uniformed police officer on patrol can address. Some nations have a third force option between the police and military to fill this gap. These formed police forces or stability police units such as France's Gendermerie, Italy's Carabinieri, or Spain's Guardia Civil. These forces traditionally performed internal security functions, but increasingly are deployed abroad to support peace operations.

Indeed the need for such expeditionary police (EXPOL) capability led the European Union to establish a multinational police peacekeeping force that can draw on up to 5,000 specially trained police for civilian peace operations. Similarly, Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Australian police services are regular contributors to international peacekeeping. The RCMP, for example, operates an International Peace Operations Branch responsible for managing and deploying provincial, municipal, and regional officers along with their own constables worldwide.

These formed units are ideal for high intensity policing tasks such as crowd control and riot suppression, advising local police, and a range of tactical operations, such as serving warrants or dignitary protection. They have also been able to provide significant support to war crimes investigations, and investigations into criminal support to insurgent activities demonstrating the need for standing constabulary capabilities.

Constabulary operations, such as these, are the "missing mission" in the United States security structure. The U.S. has no national police service (the FBI is a non-uniformed investigative agency) and state and local police address these functions internally. Few if any local U.S. Forces could field or contribute to an on-going expeditionary capability without straining their ability to perform their home mission. The U.S. also has no standing constabulary or EXPOL force and relies upon scarce or ill-fitted military units (and ad hoc civilian police units) to fill expeditionary needs. The same is true for NATO and the U.N.

The time has come to develop standing constabulary forces at several levels: U.S., NATO, and U.N. Such a building block approach would allow national and regional operations, as well as global U.N. efforts. A serious evaluation of U.S. policy and force structure is required. Many questions need to be answered: how would this service be structured; where would it reside (in the Department of Defense, Justice, State or Homeland Security); would it operate solely as an expeditionary force or domestically as well? Further questions related to the training and scope of operations must also be addressed. Would the service cover terrorism, and counter-insurgency in addition to peace operations? Finally, would it be a standing force like the Gendarmerie or a composite force like the Australian, Canadian, and EU forces?

Policing and crime control skills must be integrated into strategic and operational responses to peace operations and related conflicts that challenge transnational stability. A global framework of standing or composite constabulary forces could fill this need. It is time to fill the missing mission—the time for expeditionary police is now.

John P. Sullivan is a senior research fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies on Terrorism, a member of the board of advisors for the Terrorism Research Center, Inc., and serves as a lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department . He is also co-editor of Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a global counter-terrorism network (Routledge 2006).


I thought the RCMP is a gendarmerie. Their french name is GRC (Gendarmerie Royale du Canada)

bdqadvisor (not verified)

Fri, 05/25/2007 - 10:24pm

Having spent 3 years as Civpol, this is a subject near and dear. Unlike all the other contributing countries, the US officers were either retirees, or had quit their agency to go on mission. This meant the typical officer was either old enough to have retired, or an officer with an unusual employment history. Perhaps 2-3% had been granted a leave of absence, with the possibility of returning to their agency, but those folks were extremely rare. State Department contracted with PMCs to hire and support the officers, but State wanted, and maintained, an arms-length (or longer) relationship with the officers. We were unwelcome at embassies, and when our contract was over, we were actively discouraged from reapplying. Clintons Presidential Directive to establish a police equivalent of a Reserve was greeted with joy, but never really seemed to go anywhere. Nice idea, lousy execution.

The remedy, to me, seems to be pretty easy, and fairly economical. First, offer volunteers the same job protection provided to USAR and NG soldiers who are called to active duty. If a young officer knew he or she could volunteer and keep their job, the pool of qualified applicants would increase. The main complaint of Chiefs and Sheriffs is the cost of replacements, so offer the losing agency some financial support, perhaps half the salary, to cover replacement costs. Since the agency is holding the departed officers salary money, the supplement would allow replacements with no financial hardship for the agency.

Finally, the USG should end the practice of splitting this task betwen the State and Justice departments. Currently, every dollar spent comes from State. If Justice is handling the personnel (as with ICITAP), they are getting a dollar from State, and keeping 20 cents for administration costs. This seems to be a waste.

Rob Thornton (not verified)

Sat, 05/19/2007 - 2:10pm

This is a great topic on a capability that arguably provides a much needed tool for policy in this evolving security environment. As I considered the issue of developing indigenous security forces, it was inevitable that I would have to consider our own security forces, both those that serve abroad and/or those that serve in a domestic capacity.

There are several things I think are worth discussing on this issue:

1) Does the goal or object of developing such a capability justify the expenditure of resources? This is important because in an era where parochialism flavored competition for budgets can obscure true goals and divert needed resources (there is some Title 10 stuff in here) we need to be sure of both the costs and who is going to pay them prior to embarking past the theoretical - Id also mention that in many cases well spend money and claim to have the solution only to have it watered down and tasteless when it comes to employment. Nobody rides for free.
2) Why do we need this capability? Are we talking a foreign policy tool, a domestic policy tool, or both? Are we discussing a force that does it all - foreign and domestic? If so, what are the drawbacks to that since we know there will be competition for those resources? What are the domestic threats wed expect a force like this to counter, for that matter what are our most pressing domestic threats that deserve additional resources? How are our domestic threats different from those of say those that generated the development of those forces in continental Europe?
3) If we say our most pressing need for this capability is as a tool of foreign policy, then where does it reside? Is it a new force, or do we re-role an existing force; or do we sort of slop it and say make it an additional core task when we are already giving them more then they can maintain proficiency on? Developing a new force is going to be complicated and resource intensive. We already here about the lack of those willing to serve abroad in almost every service (some more then others). We know every agency is on the move to compete for qualified people that frankly are not lining up. Competition for talented people is even more of a problem because it extends past the agencies and into the private sector. To make matters worse government has a budget and is not willing to raise taxes to pay for it, nor short sheet another program or pet project to provide incentives.

I stand in the corner of recognizing the need for the capability, but Im pragmatic enough to believe that its going to cost a significant amount to realize it - either by giving up something else, or by upping the ante.

Is the object worth the effort?

1) What about Military Police units? Not enough? Otherwise...umm.occupied? Too associated with the DOD?

2) What about adding a Police/Security force (80% reserve) to the US Coast Guard? It is hybrid military/civil. Is not not part of the DOD officially.

3) How about an office of the Justice Department that contract with state/city/county police forces in exchange for money and other services (use the non-national police as the police reserve). When needed, they get made federal marshals or something an deployed.

4) How about an office of the Justice Department (a police core cadre of perm employees and local/state police on 1 to 3 year exchange programs) that contracts with state/city/county police forces, Private Security Companies, and Foreign Governments, in exchange for money and other services. When needed, they get put together, put under US Law as the US Expeditionary Police (EXPOL). The cadre core consists of organizers, logistics, managers, and support and maybe has 10% to 20% of the maximum deployable folks (the first people in maybe). The size of EXPOL could grow and shrink because it contracts out for most of its workforce (police and/or security are what hey normally do).

Brian H (not verified)

Wed, 05/09/2007 - 8:10pm

I see this idea foundering on the rocks of the US' non-stop states' rights hassles. State legislators, libertarians, and other conspiracy whackos would scream about rampant Federalism's subversion of liberties and opine in sepulchral tones about the greased slope to Federal autocracy.

So fuggedaboudit.


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