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IACP 2012: Assistant Secretary of State Brownfield promotes international police training

William Brownfield
Assist Sec. of State

William Brownfield, a shrewd and witty diplomat who serves as Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, appeared at the IACP show in San Diego on Sept. 30 to sign a partnership agreement with the police department of Portland, OR, under which Portland will send some of its law enforcement officers to the South Asian nation of Bangladesh to instruct their counterparts in community policing.

One might reasonably wonder what police officers from Portland might know about community policing that would be relevant to police in Bangladesh, but it turns out that Assistant Secretary Brownfield, Portland Chief of Police Michael Reese and AKM Shahidul Hoque, an inspector general with the Bangladesh Police, all of whom attended the brief signing ceremony, all agreed that such training makes a lot of sense.

“When this training works,” said Brownfield, “Portland is a winner, the U.S. Government is a winner, the Bangladesh Police is a winner and the nation of Bangladesh is a winner.”

A few hours later, in an exclusive interview with Government Security News, Brownfield noted that while Portland may, indeed, be quite different from any large city in Bangladesh, a substantial percentage of the material about community policing that the Portland instructors would impart to their Bangladesh students would hit on “universal” themes, such as the importance of local police officers linking up with local residents, and the value that can flow to police if they’re perceived to be members of the local community.

Chief Reese, of Portland, made essentially the same point when he recalled a situation a few months ago in which an engineer from Portland wanted to donate a handful of computers to a school in Bangladesh, and Portland Police officers agreed to hand-carry the computers and physically present them to the school in Bangladesh. As a friendly gesture, the Portland officers invited their counterparts from the Bangladesh Police to join them at the school when they presented the computers.

“The notion of kids-and-cops is second nature to us,” observed Chief Reese during an interview with GSN, but apparently it was a completely new -- and quite pleasant -- experience for the Bangladesh police officers, who rarely have any direct contact with schools and school children. The episode turned into a practical lesson in community policing.

Reese also emphasized that his officers gained a greater understanding of the Islamic religion and culture by interacting closely with local police in a nation that is overwhelmingly Muslim.

Hoque, the Bangladeshi inspector general, saw how Portland police officers moved beyond any initial misconceptions they had about Muslims. “They learned that all Muslim people are not terrorists, as is often portrayed in the media,” he told GSN. Beyond the basics of community policing, the Portland instructors also focused on leadership skills, investigation techniques, cyber-crimes and technology-based training, Hoque added.

Assistant Secretary Brownfield planned to sign a second partnership agreement with the Ohio State Highway Patrol on Sept. 30. These two law enforcement agencies will join more than 50 state and local partners who are already helping foreign nations strengthen their civilian security and justice sectors.

“Each state and local partner receives specialized training from the Department of State and develops key relationships from its hometown community,” says a press note issued by the State Department on Sept. 26. “The Department of State pays the salaries of state and local officers while they are deployed.”

Beyond the general principles of community policing, Brownfield told GSN, U.S. police trainers also get into the nitty-gritty of police work. For example, they might instruct their counterparts in crowd control tactics, addressing some key questions: How do you do it? Where do you put your female officers? What are you actually looking for?

Drawing on the U.S. military’s long (and often frustrating) experience trying to train police personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, Assistant Secretary Brownfield rattled off five lessons he says he has learned. First, the type of training the U.S. offers must be consistent with the type of training the recipient government actually wants. Second, the U.S. has to be clear about the training’s purpose. Is the training an adjunct to a counter-insurgency role, or is the training focused on community policing? Third, is the U.S. trying to train the maximum number of police officers, or does it aim to train a smaller number, but highly-specialized, group of students (in a “train-the-trainer” role.) Fourth, it’s vital to manage expectations in any nation whose community structure has nearly collapsed. Fifth, because no organization can ever devise a perfect plan right out of the box, it is absolutely necessary to build flexibility into such an international training program.

 
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