(article from the National Post; find original here)
Ottawa opens bids for Haitian police training
Andrew Mayeda, Canwest News Service Published: Saturday, January 10, 2009
OTTAWA — The federal government has invited private-sector bids on a $15-million contract to train the notoriously rag-tag national police force in Haiti, where Canadian efforts to bring about law-enforcement reforms have fizzled in the past.
The winning bidder will work with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Haitian government to establish a national police academy that will teach inspectors and commissioners everything from basic police skills to respect for human rights.
“Haiti’s security situation remains complex and fragile, but some improvement is being seen,” states a request for proposals issued late last month by CIDA. “In order to maintain and improve Haiti’s security, the government of Haiti must meet the challenge of ensuring improvements in reforming justice and security, especially strengthening the (Haitian National Police), corrections, and the justice system.”
The tender document notes the Haitian National Police (HNP) has had its ups and downs, owing to a lack of resources and the ongoing political turmoil in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
The HNP assumed the general responsibility for maintaining law and order in Haiti in the mid-1990s, after the Haitian army disbanded. Nearly 1,500 members of the armed forces joined the police, taking jobs without adequate screening or training.
“The HNP is thus governed by a poor-quality training framework and has very few management, command, and leadership skills,” says the request for proposals.
According to human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, the HNP has been involved in numerous cases of execution-style killings of civilians and other abuses. HNP officers have also been accused of widespread corruption and drug trafficking.
“It’s not simply going in and weeding out some bad officers and training up some more that you can then disperse throughout the force,” said Carlo Dade, executive director of the Canadian Foundation for the Americas, a think tank focused on Canada’s relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. “You’re really starting from zero.”
It is not the first time Canada has tried to play a leading role in reforming the HNP. Canada ramped up development assistance during the mid-1990s and focused on rebuilding Haiti’s security and justice system, but abandoned the efforts after the reforms didn’t gain traction.
“One of the lessons is that you can’t simply provide six months’ basic training to police officers, send them out into the street and expect them to be police officers in the vein of the RCMP,” said Timothy Donais, a Wilfrid Laurier University professor who has studied police reform in Haiti. “It’s easy to teach people the technical skills. It’s much harder to change the culture of a police organization.”
The request for proposals describes the five-year project as the first phase in a “long-term” Canadian commitment to rebuilding the HNP.
In 2006, Canada committed to providing $555 million in aid to Haiti over five years, making Haiti the second biggest recipient of Canadian development aid next to Afghanistan. Canada is the second largest donor country in Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The similar use of private contractors has generated some controversy in Afghanistan, due to their uncertain status as potential combatants and the perception in some quarters that they are not accountable.
But Donais said it makes sense to turn to private-sector experts to train the HNP, because police seconded to Haiti from Canada and other countries are often generalists who do not serve long rotations in Haiti.
There are slightly less than 100 RCMP officers serving in Haiti with the UN peacekeeping mission established after the overthrow of the Aristide regime in 2004.
A CIDA spokeswoman said the project will complement separate RCMP efforts to train the HNP. The RCMP referred questions to CIDA.
The HNP has about 7,500 officers, of which about 700 are cadres, inspectors or commissioners, according to CIDA.