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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The State Department's Support of International Law Enforcement Development and Operations

David T. Johnson
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Remarks at the Rhode Island Municipal Police Academy
Lincoln, RI
May 7, 2010


Thank you, Congressman Kennedy for your introduction, and thank you Chief Silva and your staff for making my appearance here today possible.

I’d also quickly like to recognize Congressman Jim Langevin and Rhode Island’s Attorney General Patrick Lynch who are also with us today.

I’m glad to have this opportunity to visit with you all his afternoon. Rhode Island has been the focus of much attention as a result of the recent storms and subsequent flooding. I’m sure that situation posed some serious policing challenges similar to those we experience with our international police training missions.

Some of you may be wondering about my reference to the international police challenges the State Department faces. Many of my State, local and tribal law enforcement colleagues are surprised to learn that the State Department is active in law enforcement development around the world. Most people view the State Department as an agency that focuses purely on diplomacy. But to implement U.S. foreign policy and protect U.S. national security requires a range of tools that are broad in scope.

A vital element of our foreign policy requires us to provide our international partners with the tools and capabilities that will allow them to help us diminish criminal activity abroad and eliminating the safe havens used by terrorists and transnational criminals. The fact is that in today’s world, a significant amount of serious crime that affects us is international in every sense of that word.

Let me give you one example. Narcotics traffickers in countries far away from the United States can have a direct, adverse impact on our society when their product enters the mainstream of our domestic drug trade or destabilizes our Allies and partners. As a result, the United States has a strong interest in seeking to build international partners who are capable of attacking this insidious business at its source, in their home countries.

To the extent we are able to assist our friends around the globe by building their capacity to fight organized crime, we help reduce its effects on the United States. Similarly, by helping build robust criminal justice systems in foreign countries, we strengthen the ability of free societies to govern themselves effectively. In so doing, we also help build the tools to fight the corrosive effects of corruption that diminish public confidence in government and provide fertile fields for those seeking to achieve power for unsavory purposes.

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, known as INL, which I have the privilege to lead, works to combat international narcotics production and trafficking, thwart international crime, and strengthen the law enforcement capabilities of our partner nations overseas.

We do so in partnership with other federal agencies charged with investigating and prosecuting criminal cases against specific individuals. INL programs help our foreign partners to build their capabilities to fight illicit narcotics production, secure their borders, and build law enforcement, prosecutorial and judicial institutions to combat transnational threats and deny safe haven to bad actors, from traffickers to terrorists. We also assist other countries to reform and strengthen their correctional systems so that judicially-mandated sentences are carried out in secure, humane facilities, rather than institutions that breed more crime, or allow convicts to continue their criminal enterprises even behind bars.

As part of our international development efforts, INL funds and operates international law enforcement academies known as ILEAs. These institutions are located in Budapest, Hungary; Bangkok, Thailand; Botswana; San Salvador, El Salvador; and Roswell, New Mexico.

Our training programs abroad teach critical professional skills to the civilian police officers and officer-candidates who will serve together in the same region.

The Department of State also pursues many of its goals by helping to develop criminal justice systems and strengthening the rule of law in countries like Bosnia and Kosovo, where these systems have not previously existed and where conflict has raged.

In this context, there’s an interesting and relevant phenomenon that motivates us to pay particular attention to countries emerging from conflicts such as civil wars or insurgencies. That is the fact that organized crime loves a vacuum.

Whenever a country’s fundamental capacity to operate an effective criminal justice system is either diminished or destroyed by conflict, unscrupulous individuals and groups move into the vacuum created by a lack of effective law enforcement. Their underlying motivation is, of course, their belief that they will be able to function without fear of swift and sure apprehension and punishment. The unfortunate state of affairs in Somalia today exemplifies this phenomenon perfectly.

To reduce the opportunities afforded by this sort of an environment, my Bureau focuses a great deal of attention to post-conflict situations. Historically, this includes places such as El Salvador, Colombia, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan. INL has operated, or is currently operating, programs in each of these countries.

But I don’t want to overlook other challenging environments, within which we also work. The recent tragedy in Haiti amplified the problems in governance that Haiti has been experiencing for years. INL has contributed substantially to the efforts of the United Nations seeking to build strong Haitian criminal justice institutions, a professional police force, prosecutors, judges and correctional officials.

In planning, developing and implementing our programs, we call upon a blend of talents. INL employs a staff of senior police, justice and corrections advisors who work to assess on-the-ground conditions in prospective host nations. These specialists then plan our programs and, working with INL program officers, assist in obtaining the resources needed for a particular country.

And while there are some broad similarities from country to country, each location in which we operate presents its own set of conditions and challenges. As a result while our programs can have similar objectives, they all have to be tailor made.

To augment our in-house experts, we require the services of law enforcement subject matter experts as advisors, trainers and mentors. As you know, the United States does not maintain a national police service. As a result, we seek to obtain the services of those with extensive law enforcement experience at the State, county and local levels who are retired or on leave of absence from their active duty employment.

These individuals have served honorably and effectively around the world over a range of our programs. We are now seeking ways to expand our pool of resources.

We want to expand our capabilities by collaborating directly with state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies to obtain the assistance we require. We also recognize the difficulties and limitations inherent in doing so.

In terms of program scope and size, our efforts vary from relatively modest programs such as in East Timor where we assigned 25 civilian police advisors to the United Nations who, in turn, deployed them to the Country. There, in addition to developing the Timorese Police Service, they performed “executive level” policing activities in the absence of any other law enforcement agency.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have had as many at 900 police advisors deployed to Iraq.

Since we began our police training program more than 15 years ago, we have deployed more than 9,000 police advisors for reform or development activities.

We work collaboratively with the host nation’s criminal justice agencies which are the recipients of our assistance. Our program plans are designed to conform to the needs of the host government; build upon their strengths; and focus on developing police institutions.

This means that as opposed to providing a skills-based training program to individuals, we seek to achieve long-term, sustainable changes within the organization. These changes include assisting in the drafting and adoption of local laws authorizing the operation of the police organization.

They also include identifying and developing leaders to assist in managing the changes we are recommending, and then defining and publishing the mission and specific functions to be performed by the organization. We then help them prepare policies and procedures to guide the work of the agency, and combine that with programs to train personnel at all levels to give them the skills they need to protect their own public.

In many cases, our programs extend for several years since changes in laws, policies, organizational structure, and training highly-skilled police personnel is time consuming.

In spite of these challenges, many of our staff report that this is some of the most rewarding work they have ever done. Indeed mentoring and watching a newly-trained patrolman interact positively with a citizen in a foreign country in a manner never before possible under a former, repressive police model is a wonderfully fulfilling experience and a manifestation of all we try to accomplish.

To that end, should any of you be interested in participating in an international mission, I encourage you to contact the State Department or visit us at

Thanks you for this opportunity to tell you a little bit about the State Department and INL. I’ve enjoyed being with you here in Rhode Island and I want to wish each of you a long, rewarding and safe career in law enforcement. I hope that some of you have a chance to participate in our programs. If you do, you’ll not only help achieve important U.S. foreign policy goals, but will acquire experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.

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