Police Training in Afghanistan — “Unbelievably Incompetent”

Police or Soldiers?

Have you ever wondered how and what we were teaching Iraqi and Afghani police officers and recruits? A number of us did. I remember talking with some of my former colleagues well over a decade ago and worrying about what we were teaching them seeing we were having problems enough in our own country with the direction of our police.

Well, suspicions confirmed. Take a look at the following articles about the incompetency of the contractor program for police training – “we just never trained them… all we did was give them a uniform.”

And worst of all situations, we turned the police in this fledgling democracy into a military fighting force instead of men and women who would work with their communities and help reinforce and preserve the tenets of democracy. Sad. Very sad.

“The NATO mission aims to train a 134,000-strong police force by October as it prepares the Afghan forces to take over security responsibility by 2014. But many… raise questions about the quality of the trainers flown into the country and the system put in place. Contractors such as DynCorps bring in trainers who are not professional police officers, but rather former army or private guards. ‘The trainers are not professional, they have turned the police into a fighting force such as the army and NATO. The police are supposed to be following the judiciary, as a preventive force,’ [an Afghani general] said.”

Aug 16, 2011 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2011/08/20118168280220816.html

The Senator who oversees government contractors such as DynCorps had this to say:

“’It is an unbelievably incompetent story of contracting… For 8 years we have been supposedly training the police in Afghanistan. And here’s what we’ve done. We’ve flushed six billion dollars. Six billion dollars!’ ” [Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, Chair of Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight]

And the U.S. general who assumed command of Afghani police training:

“’If only [Sen. McCaskill] were exaggerating… It’s inconceivable, but in fact for eight years we weren’t training the police… We just never trained them before. All we did was give them a uniform.’ “ [Lt. Gen. William Caldwell]

A recent article in Mother Jones revealed this:]

“DynCorp, the Virginia-based contractor has been paid more than $1.2 billion to train the Afghan police. The result is that those training services have been found sorely wanting by government audits.

“There’s the State Department, which was originally responsible for overseeing the police training contracts—a responsibility it failed to meet, at times having only three contracting officers on the ground.

“And then there’s the Pentagon, which eventually took control of the program, running it through an obscure military office and an existing contract vehicle that was only open to bids from five pre-selected contractors. DynCorp wasn’t one of them.”

[For the whole story see: http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2010/04/afghan-police-training-unbelievably-incompetent-story]

What to do? For starters, why not teach the principles Robert Peel developed over a century and a half ago when he consolidated and took over command of the newly-created Metropolitan Police in London? And what about leadership training? If we are going to be so bold as a nation to export our democratic system of government, then we need to think about who the best people should be to model that system.  For me that’s what police do. [See my new book, “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police," (April, 2012).]

So if you are reading this and you have some clout to change this situation – or you know someone who does – tell them to read my book and act on it — policing a democracy is policing a democracy! Iraqi and Afghani citizens have a right to good policing just as much as we do.

p.s. Here’s a good overview of the situation from Time Magazine back in October, 2008. I doubt much has changed since then: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1852296,00.html

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About improvingpolice

I served over 20 years as the chief of police in Madison (WI), four years as chief of the Burnsville (MN) Police Department, and before that as a police officer in Edina (MN) and the City of Minneapolis. I hold graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota and Edgewood College in Madison. I have written many articles over my years as a police leader calling for police improvement (for example, How To Rate Your Local Police, and with my wife, Sabine, Quality Policing: The Madison Experience). After retiring from the police department, I answered a call to ministry, attended seminary, and was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. At the present time, I serve a small church in North Lake (WI), east of Madison. Sabine and I have nine adult children, eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She is also a retired police officer and we both continue active lives.

4 Responses to “Police Training in Afghanistan — “Unbelievably Incompetent””

  1. Chief:

    I don’t necessarily disagree with your conclusions but, after being engaged in the police reform effort in Afghanistan for the last 2-1/2 years, I can say that the over-militarization of the police is not due to a State Dept. failure or one on DynCorp’s part, despite the views to the contrary in the articles that you quoted. Having worked for DynCorp for one year and then having oversight of the contract for most of another, I can tell you that most of their contractors are hard-working law enforcement professionals who often found themselves hamstrung by some of the policies and restrictions they were having to work under.

    That being said, I appreciate your recent comments on the IPCB site and, after taking a look at your website, feel that we are kindred spirits in many ways, including our love for the Lord and the martial arts.

    You can take a look at my Police Dynamics website at http://www.PoliceDynamics.com where we explore a number of character-based principles and their impact on police leadership. You can also view a site that I built for our martial arts system, American Tactical Ju-jitsu, at http://www.DigitalDojo.us.

    Looking forward to a continuing dialog with you…

    Sheriff Ray Nash, ret.
    Police Dynamics Institute

    • Thanks, Ray, for the reply. Yes, we are kindred spirits in that we know the gap between what is and what needs to be done. I have this recurring dream, I think it comes from an old story about exporting American know-how to the world. It goes like this: Let’s say we really want to help the world become a better place. Then why not export the ideas that SHOULD be, not what IS. The result would be police departments in other democratic societies that have the opportunity to become even better than we think we are. And thanks for the martial arts comment. It’s been difficult for me all my career, and all my training efforts, to try to understand why my fellow police offices did not share my enthusiasm for the Asian martial arts which I believed help emphasize many of the important values of policing a free society (e.g. tents of Bushido). Hang in there and let’s keep a discussion going. It has been difficult to get a conversation going nationally about the ideas I present in my book. Peace.

  2. i spent a year in Iraq training the Iraqi police forces and i agree that we need to send more law enforcement professionals to help. Out of our platoon of 45 soldiers only 7 or 8 had ever worked in a law enforcement capacity and of the ones who did most had not done so in a long time. The Army was even sending soldiers from different MOS such as field artilery to train Iraqis on how to conduct local law enforcement.

    • Jason, thanks for your reply. Yep, ain’t that just the way it is. If we really cared we would do this a lot better, wouldn’t we. Hang in there. Blessings and thanks for serving (as from one warrior [Marine] to another)!

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