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).