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IPTF oversees police forces in BiH

By Sgt. Kerensa Hardy
First published in
SFOR Informer#110, April 4, 2001

Sarajevo - Since the war, there have been apparent changes in the structure, mindset and general behaviour of the police forces in BiH.
The International Police Task Force is largely responsible for the changes taking place, which have made for a more professional and smooth-running police force.
IPTF was created under the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (GFAP) to help with the police in this country after the end of the war, said Douglas Coffman, UN Mission in BiH spokesman. "There are approximately 1,800 members from 47 different countries and their primary responsibilities are to advise, train and monitor the police throughout the country, as well as restoring and restructuring them."
Local police forces have also received training in senior management and narcotics control, among other areas.
The more than 20,000 officers in BiH are spread out among 14 different police forces, all of which are being restructured by the IPTF.
"Our first … tasks were to ensure that the police made the transition from a wartime police force to a peacetime police force," Coffman said. "They also had to change their way of thinking from the former communist system to operating under democratic norms. This was a big challenge."
IPTF officers work out of UN facilities or are co-located in 250 local police stations throughout the country.
"We have no executive authority, we do not carry weapons and we cannot arrest people," Coffman explained. "That is all the job of the local police and our job is to push them to do that in a professional manner."
During the war, the police forces of BiH were much larger than they are now. Coffman said the force was more like an extension of the Army rather than a police force. They carried weapons with military power and wore military-style uniform.
"The biggest challenge was … you still had a war-like mentality amongst the population and amongst the political leadership," he added.
Another element of the restructuring process is altering the ethnic mak-eup of the force.
"BiH used to be a patchwork of ethnic communities throughout the country," Coffman said. "But during the war, most of the country turned into mono-ethnic regions."

IPTF at work
In Janja (Eastern Republika Srpska), the Chief of Police Security Station was de-authorised by IPTF commissioner March 28. Petar Kojic's de-authorisation was on the grounds that he was responsible for the failure of the Janja police to act properly during riots of July 2000 that were ethnically motivated, and that he also was unable to appropriately respond to the October 2000 looting of a Bosniac-owned property.

Over the past two years or so, IPTF was very instrumental in assisting the police force recruit minorities. Two police academies have been set up - one for Republika Srpska in Banja Luka and one for the Federation in Sarajevo.
The vast majority of cadets attending the academies are minorities, Coffman said. Seventy-five percent of RS academy cadets are Bosniacs; 90 percent of Federation academy cadets are ethnic Bosnian-Serbs.
"We have two agreements signed - one with RS for the restructuring and democratisation of the police and one with the Federation - called the Bonn-Petersberg Agreement," he said. This agreement lays out what the ethnic make-up of each police force should be in specific areas. "We have made progress in meeting those numbers, but we are still quite short."
One of the major accomplishments of the IPTF is the establishment of the first truly multi-ethnic police force in Brcko. So although there is much work to be done, significant progress has been made.
"The police today act in a much more democratic fashion," the spokesperson said. "They're making progress and … looking and acting like police officers from a western European country. The local population has gained much more confidence in the police and they are becoming more multi-ethnic to represent the communities that they serve."
Twelve police officers from both entities and three peoples were sent to East Timor as part of the UN mission there. "By sending those 12 officers, we really sent a message to the world that progress is being made in BiH, and especially so in the police," Coffman said.
IPTF is also involved in helping BiH take action against the trafficking of women for forced prostitution. Coffman said they helped conduct raids against brothels and night-clubs in BiH and have identified and returned home 250 victims of human trafficking, most from Romania, Ukraine and Moldova.
The investigation of human rights violations by police while conducting their duties is another important aspect of the IPTF's function. If any complaints are founded, the guilty police are removed from the force permanently.
The UN has set up trust funds to pay for extensive training, equipment, uniforms and vehicles - everything police officers need to do their job.
Like all other stabilisation missions within BiH, IPTF has established a desired deadline.
"By the end of 2002 we hope that all of this will be set up and the officers will just need to be monitored," Coffman said. "We think that we'll have a nice-sized democratic police force simply needing some monitoring supervision."
However, meeting the desired deadline will depend on developments in the political arena. "That, of course, will slow the implementation of the mandate. Right now we have the problem in the Federation authorities and a split between Bosnian-Croats and Bosniacs, which obviously directly impacts on our work," he said. "We're looking to establish a fully functioning Federation police force, and there's a real possibility that the Bosnian-Croats will walk out of that force.
"We hope that these politics do not affect the co-operation and integration of the police … but if it does, of course, it will require us to work harder and stay longer."

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