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Diplomacy in Action

CivPol Alumni Association

David T. Johnson
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Remarks at the President's Dinner
Washington, DC
May 14, 2010


Thank you, President Lewis and the Board of Directors of the CivPol Alumni Association for your kind invitation to this special occasion tonight, especially during the celebration of Police Week here in Washington, D.C.

The members of the CivPol Alumni Association represent the legacy of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs’ (INL) police development mission’s worldwide. During the past sixteen years, over 9000 U.S. International Police Advisers have served with INL in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Liberia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Southern Sudan. These missions all posed unusual challenges and often represented significant dangers.

The U.S. CivPol contingents have always risen to the task. As we recognize our domestic law enforcement losses during Police Week, we must also acknowledge our fallen colleagues in South America, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Our fallen brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate price for service to our nation deserve the highest level of respect and recognition.

When talking to outside groups about the State Department’s mission, I often find that many people are surprised to learn that the Department is active in international law enforcement operations, development, and capacity building. Most people view our Department as one focusing purely on diplomatic issues. They have little awareness of the breadth of activities we pursue as we seek to advance America’s foreign policy objectives. In fact, a vital element of that policy relates to dealing with criminal activity abroad, both assisting domestic law enforcement in its efforts to bring people to justice for crimes against the United States and helping other states develop the capacity for fair and just law enforcement. The fact is that in today’s world, a significant amount of serious crime is international in every sense of that word.

For example, narcotics manufacturers in countries far away from the United States have a direct, adverse impact on our society, sometimes even if their products never enter the mainstream of our domestic drug trade. As a result, the United States has genuine natural 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 many friends around the globe by building their capacity to fight organized crime; we serve to reduce its effects upon our own country. Similarly, by helping to build robust criminal justice systems in foreign countries, we strengthen the ability of free societies to govern themselves effectively. In so doing, we also strive to eliminate the corrosive effects of corruption that diminish public confidence in government and provide fertile fields for those seeking to achieve power for unsavory purposes.

I have had the privilege to lead INL for almost three years. During my tenure, I have travelled widely seen the beneficial effects of your efforts, as INL continues to work to combat international narcotics production and trafficking, thwart international crime, and strengthen the law enforcement capabilities of our partner nations overseas.

We have achieved many of our goals by helping to develop criminal justice systems and strengthening the rule of law. This is often done in regions such as Bosnia and Kosovo, where these systems had not previously existed and where conflict has raged. The absence of fair, effective legal systems creates the perfect environment to development and spread organized crime. Because of that, we pay particular attention to countries emerging from conflicts such as civil wars or insurgencies.

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 and set up shop. 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, much of the work we do centers on post-conflict situations.

However, we can’t overlook other challenging environments, such as states under challenges from natural or man-made disasters, another area where we also work. The recent tragedy in Haiti amplified the problems that have plagued that nation for years.

INL has contributed substantially to the efforts of the United Nations to build strong Haitian criminal justice institutions and professional police, prosecutors, judges and correctional officials.

Time and time again, you have responded to the call. 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 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 appropriate resources needed for a particular country. I want to note here that while there are some broad similarities from country to country, each presents its own sets of conditions and challenges which requires custom-designed programs to fit the needs of each country.

You have augmented our in-house experts, as law enforcement subject matter experts, international police advisors, trainers and mentors. As you know well the United States does not maintain a national police service as do many other countries. Your contribution has been a crucial component. You and your colleagues continue to serve honorably and effectively around the world over a broad range of our programs.

In terms of program scope and size, our efforts have varied from relatively modest programs such as in East Timor where we assigned 25 civilian police advisors to the United Nations which, in turn, deployed. There, like during the early days in Kosovo, in addition to developing the National Police Service, we 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.

Our aim is always to work collaboratively with the host nation’s criminal justice agencies which are the recipients of our assistance as we build their capacity. Our program plans are designed to conform to the expressed needs of the host government; build upon the organizational strengths we have identified; and focus upon what we call institutional development.

This means that as opposed to providing a skills-based training program to individuals here or there, our ultimate objective is always long-term, sustainable changes within the organization. These changes include assisting in the drafting and adoption of local laws governing the operation of the police. They also include identifying and developing leaders that will lead the police over the long term. In short, we want to work ourselves out of a job.

As we honor our fallen colleagues during Police Week, I am pleased to announce that INL is in the final stages of creating a memorial to commemorate the service and sacrifice of all INL personnel killed in the line of duty. We want a lasting tribute to honor our fallen friends and colleagues and the work they have done to defend America and American values.

On behalf of the INL bureau I would like to congratulate the award recipients for receiving the Defense of Freedom Medal; your sacrifices and service in Iraq have greatly contributed to overall success of the mission.

Thank you for the opportunity to spend this time with you as we honor all of our CivPol heroes and their families. Your contributions to the international police development missions have been real, measurable, and significant. You have helped us to achieve important U.S. foreign policy goals. You have made a difference.

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