Police forces with military status in international peace operations - preliminary findings
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Recent peace operations are characterised by a gap between a large number of heavily-armed military forces and the international civilian police – often few in number and if at all equipped with light weapons (the so-called deployment and enforcement gaps). Police forces with military status are often regarded as the perfect filler, despite the fact that very little research has been done on their role, suitability, and effectiveness in peace operations. The present preliminary analysis has a two-fold starting-point: it briefly reviews past experiences with police with military status in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor. It then takes a closer look at how the police forces of the major European contributors are structured and function domestically. The report then discusses problematic issues tied to the use of police with military status in peace operations, such as the need to maintain legitimacy and legality in a foreign environment or the forces’ at times dubious human rights record in their home countries. The conclusions point out that police with military status are prepared for and have the skills to carry out a wide range of tasks that can be of great use in peace operations, especially in the unstable early phases of an operation. Their organisation in units can be advantageous to a mission, although there is also a danger of isolation from the rest of the mission and the local population. Most importantly, however, is the fact that their usefulness depends to a large extent on the clarity of their remit and the chain of command. If given clear instructions, police with military status can be a valuable asset. If not, they remain largely underemployed and marginalized.