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