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Monday, October 19, 2009

Creating a Counter Insurgency Environment

Let us borrow some thoughts from the U.S. Army’s counterinsurgency playbook. Putting aside all the processes and theories, the basic requirement in instilling safety and prosperity in an area is winning the hearts, minds, and trust of all the stakeholders toward a common purpose or mission. This is the most effective way to create a social environment that does not intentionally or unintentionally support gangs, drug dealers and criminals (counterinsurgent environment). Unfortunately, “winning the hearts and minds” is the most difficult, demanding, and laborious process any police officer or police organization will ever endeavor. Here is a non-exhaustive list of reasons why winning hearts and minds is such a demanding and unpopular endeavor:
It does not provide the immediate gratification (adrenaline and feelings of power) that reactionary enforcement activities provide.
It requires so much more than the intelligence, bravery, skill, and professional persona that are required to enforce laws and effect arrests. In addition to those, it requires character, courage, patience, maturity, regard, and wisdom.
Police lose the ready-made excuse of blaming the community for not being responsive—because “winning hearts and minds” is the responsibility of police!
Everyone (from desk clerks to bureau commanders) must be accountable to have respectful regard for all persons. To accomplish this, everyone in every chain of command must courageously hold themselves and everyone else accountable—regardless of loyalties and fears. In other words, if the social system allows a commander to have a reign of terror and misery over her subordinates—every stated value and policy to the contrary become nothing but dry ink on wasted paper. The disregard for others will inevitably spill over into the way in which members of our communities are treated.
It takes the job of “bean counting”—statistical analysis of work productivity—out of the realm of the simple, lazy process of counting enforcement activities in prescribed areas. This is because the focus is no longer lead measures like staffing, car checks, pedestrian checks, search warrants, and so on. Rather, the focus is on less tangible but critically important lag measures. “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”[1]
Are citizens consistently seen as people and treated with respect?
Is the community safe, secure, and prospering—or are the “insurgents” having their way?
[1]. New Westminster Police Service website, http://www.nwpolice.org/peel.html (accessed 13 December 2008).

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