Afghan Police Gain Leadership Skills, Public Trust
By Judith Snyderman
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2010 Payoffs to police have contributed to widespread corruption in Afghanistan, but new efforts to engender respect for police and to train police chiefs with leadership skills could pay off in a more stable and just Afghan society, a senior officer involved in NATO’s training mission said.
Maj. Gen. Mike Ward of the Canadian army, deputy commander for police on the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan staff, described a case in point during a June 25 “DoD Live” bloggers roundtable.
“We have a very promising model of the civil police and justice program operating down in Kandahar right now which is a composite of the Canadian civil police and the U.S. 97th [Military Police] Battalion,” Ward said.
Afghan police officers are walking their beats and engaging with shopkeepers while partnered with training mentors, Ward said. The new breed of officers, he added, aims to earn the confidence of the public by not taking kickbacks or engaging in corrupt practices.
Gaining this confidence is a key to counterinsurgency strategy, Ward explained. Any security force must “move at will, own the night and know your publics.”
Translated to effective policing, he said, that means officers must view it as their duty to “get out with, mix with [and] know the public.”
Ward cited many efforts under way to break the old chain of police corruption in Afghanistan. Those include anti-corruption edicts from the top of government and parity pay raises. At one time, Ward noted, “the pay was so low for policemen and army officers that they could only support their families by abusing their position.”
He added that low pay stoked high attrition rates, which added to problems in recruiting and training sufficient numbers of officers.
But money no longer is the issue, Ward said. Police now earn a living wage, equipment is flowing into the country, and the police are receiving better training and mentorship, both in classrooms and on patrol, he added.
As a result, he said, retention rates are rising. The attrition rate now is less than 1 percent per month among the 75,000 uniformed police, who represent some 75 percent of the force.
“If you parallel that with some of the percentages of attrition that we see even in Western nations, this is a good statistic,” Ward noted.
However, he said the attrition rate among the Afghan National Civil Order Police, which has started to drop to about 50 percent, continues to be an issue of concern. Still, he said, trends are moving in the right direction and he’s optimistic.
“I am encouraged by the number of very honest police that I deal with and who are outraged by having to work with colleagues who take advantage of the system [that] is not accountable enough yet,” he said, “and these [honest police] are the individuals who we would want to promote to positions where their influence or their power can help change the system for the better.”