“Protect and serve”, the Haitian National Police motto put to the test in Haiti
Since February 7, 2019, episodes of violence hinder all socio-economic activities in Haiti. Amidst the management of demonstrations, the roadblocks, looting of stores, stone throwing, arson of vehicles and public or private buildings, are straining the Haitian National Police (HNP) in its mission to protect people and property.
While the main arteries of Port-au-Prince have been taken over by groups of demonstrators, some are blocking all traffic with inflamed tires and obstacles of all kinds (tree trunks, rocks, remains of cars or household appliances), sometimes forming man high barricades, while others are attacking gas stations, banks, shops or public buildings such as the National Television. The insurgency climate has also spread to other cities where movements of roadblocks have been observed in addition to demonstrations. Main roads between North and South, East and West are especially targeted by protesters, putting into practice their slogan "Country Lock". In response to this situation, the General Director of the HNP, Michel-Ange Gédéon, supported by his senior leadership, has implemented operational measures which adapts meet the daily needs.
In Port-au-Prince, the various section leaders of the HNP mobilize their staff every day to provide a targeted response. The elements of the Crowd Control and Intervention Unit (CIMO), the Departmental Public Order Unit (UDMO), the Motorized Intervention Brigade Corp (CBIM), the Search and Intervention Brigade (BRI) and the Counter Narcotics Trafficking Bureau (BLTS), as well as other units, have been hard at work for nine days to contain the outbreaks of violence and looting, restore order and freedom of movement.
Every day they are clearing barricades and opening roads to allow free movement of people and goods.
Despite logistical difficulties, in the face of a multitude of security events, the Haitian police officers have organized themselves to hold fixed points of presence on the main roads in order to prevent and avoid the worst from occurring during the acts of violence, notably by arresting leaders and evacuating the wounded. Every day they are clearing barricades and opening roads to allow free movement of people and goods, while the most vulnerable begin to face shortages of drinking water and food and hospitals remain closed for lack of medical staff able to come to work. Men and women, proudly wearing the uniform of the National Police, they organize patrols and ensure crowd control during demonstrations so that those who want to make their demands heard can do so peacefully.
Risking their own lives at the service of others
As part of its mandate, the police component of the United Nations Mission in Support of Justice in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) continues to support the HNP by strengthening its officers deployed in the field with fixed points, patrols or perimeter assistance, as well as escorts of convoys carrying goods.
The HNP has courageously faced the every day challenges of public disorder that the country has been experiencing.
In addition, MINUJUSTH international police officers, deployed in the regions, support the senior officers of the HNP in the context of the MAP (Mentoring and Advisory Program), sharing their expertise and experience with the HNP. According to them, those men and women put their lives in danger on daily basis, honoring the motto of the institution: "protect and serve" with courage and determination.
"Given the extent of the mobilization as well as the numerous acts of violence against people and property which have put a strain on the capacity of the institution, the HNP has courageously faced the every day challenges of public disorder that the country has been experiencing." outlines Commissioner Serge Therriault, the head of the MINUJUSTH Police Component.
The necessary proportionality in the use of force
"This new test highlights the institution's ability to mobilize the required number of officers in all departments, and particularly in the capital, for an extended period of time, with levels of supervision and training in constant progress", he welcomes, adding that "It has also shed light on the significant lack of equipment and logistical support that the institution has to deal with in normal circumstances, which has an even greater impact in these difficult times."
Welcoming the dedication of Haitian police women and men at all levels, in the execution of their tasks, he recommends maintaining the course of proportionality in response to the protesters "the Haitian National Police will need to continue to exercise restraint in the coming days during clashes with demonstrators, especially with regard to the use of force and respect for Human Rights."