One of the tasks the U.S. government uses private military contractors for is overseas law enforcement. No, they are not walking a beat in another country. But they are used to demonstrate the U.S. Government's (USG's) commitment to international operations. Beyond the deployment of police personnel to interim policing missions, LE agencies may also be involved in international operations to enforce U.S. domestic law; for capacity building; and/or in support of U.S. military forces.
This is a task that firms like DynCorp, to name one of the bigger PMCS, has long specialized in. It is, to be sure a necessary task; one can't have stability in an area where there is or recently was conflict without effective and uncorrupted law enforcement agencies.
While many PMC have performed this critical work capably it is not without costs. A recent study, Lessons Learned from U. S. Government Law Enforcement in International Operations, by the U.S. Army's Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute examined lessons from three operations: Panama (1989-99), Colombia (1989-Present), and Kosovo (1998-Present). In regard to the last it looked at the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) mission.
Although the study does not name the contractor DynCorp has long had the civilian police (CIVPOL) contract, which supplies personnel for U.N. police missions.
The United States was the largest contributor of police personnel to the UNMIK mission. At its peak, the United States had 605 officers (all as individually-deployed personnel; the United States did not provide an SPU) in Kosovo. All personnel were recruited (mostly from a variety of U.S. state and local agencies), trained and administered by a contracting company for 12-month deployments to the UNMIK. Using this means, the United States was able to provide a well-regarded, well-equipped contingent of police officers to the mission. However, recruitment of police professionals by contractors draws from a relatively small pool of qualified and available personnel, so there were a few cases of less than suitable personnel (unfit or inappropriately qualified) deployed with the contingents. Another recruitment problem was attracting the right range of law enforcement personnel; although salaries offered by the contractor were very competitive for generalist officers from smaller departments, they were less attractive to still-active personnel from big city departments or officers with management or specialist expertise. Use of a contracting company as an intermediary also created difficulties in dismissing and disciplining officers, and still required government involvement in, and close supervision of, the predeployment training provided in order to ensure the required standards were maintained. In addition, this did not provide a way to institutionalize knowledge and provide for long-term capacity
3. Use of Contractors.
The USG provided a sufficient number of qualified contracted law enforcement professionals to the mission. Overall they performed their tasks well, but there were challenges in recruiting, securing specific expertise, and management overhead.
While using contracted LE professionals has had both benefits and challenges, currently a contractor-dependent system is the only means by which the USG deploys large numbers of police to international operations. Existing legislation (particularly under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution) limits USG ability to deputize state or local employees to federal roles; so these individuals can only work as advisors, contractors, or be added to the permanent federal work force. In addition, while the DoS can develop relationships with local/state LE to recruit LE personnel for overseas deployment, often local/state police stations cannot easily release their personnel and will not agree to do so absent some form of legal mandate (e.g., for National Guard and Reserve military forces).
Finally, some relevant skills required in overseas contingencies are not commonly available in state and local LE forces.
For the DoS, one of the primary benefits of maintaining a contracting system means that it does not have to permanently employ more people. Contracting allows the DoS to avoid permanently hiring personnel who may only be required for a few years and also reduces the management overhead to vendors who oversee payroll, benefits, and other issues. The DoS is limited to ensuring the contracts are legal and current and to providing some oversight to the overall operation.
While not a prevalent problem, one of the related challenges of using contractors includes discipline and accountability. In some cases, companies providing contractors are reluctant to take disciplinary action against their contractors even in the face of clear violations because they want to maintain the mandated number of personnel in country. Contracts often do not specify the steps to be taken in such cases, making it difficult to take adequate disciplinary measures against offenders. This can foster a dangerous kind of impunity under which no system exists to deal with actions that are illegal or are contrary to USG strategic priorities and guidelines.
Follow David Isenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vanidan