17 January 2023
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Cooperation to strengthen community policing in Lebanon
Joaquin Plasencia Garcia, Chief Inspector of the National Police and director of the project “Support to Community Policing in Lebanon” together with Valentina Salvato, project technician, give us an overview of the work done and some of the objectives achieved by the National Police during the first two years of implementation of the project to strengthen community policing in Lebanon.
A CHALLENGE FOR LEBANON: People’s trust in the security forces
Lebanon remains a fragile country politically and economically. The explosion in the port of Beirut disrupted the country’s economic activity. Moreover, this tragedy came at a terrible time when Lebanon is struggling with a deep economic and social crisis that was aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frustration with the government and the political elite had been building up for years, and the country’s long-term economic problems increasingly clash with the daily lives of its population. Public anger has grown in recent years and, since October 2019, protesters have taken to the streets across the country, accusing the leaders of Lebanon’s sectarian-based political system of widespread corruption that has left the country with poor infrastructure, few services and a sinking economy.
Despite the progressive professionalisation of the Internal Security Forces (FSI), the organisation still suffers from organisational weaknesses. Hence, recent events during the demonstrations have seriously undermined public confidence in the security sector, and the need to reinforce and strengthen community policing.
When we talk about community policing we refer to a reciprocal and participative relationship between the police and the population. The idea is to maintain contact and dialogue between the police and the citizens in order to find out what the priority problems are for the community, encouraging the population to participate proactively in their security, and being able to promote the solution of these problems. Proximity policing is to ensure that the population sees the police as an ally in case of need, bringing citizens closer to the police.
With funding from the European Union, the FIIAPP is working with the Spanish National Police and the collaboration of CIVIPOL on the project “Supporting Community Policing in Lebanon”, with the aim of improving the service provided to citizens and in that sense facilitating the transition from a force-based policing approach to a citizen-oriented policing service.
In two years of work, specialists from the National Police have exchanged experiences with their Lebanese counterparts on issues such as crowd control, first response in emergency situations, gender-based violence and stress management for police personnel, among others.
So far, more than 900 police officers, including 52 female police officers, from the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF), the equivalent of the National Police, have been trained. Instructors from the ISF academy have been involved in order to achieve maximum sustainability of the project and to be able to continue and reiterate the training to the rest of their personnel.
Various activities are being carried out in the project, many of them by specialists from the Judicial Police, the Forensic Police and the Police Intervention Unit. Likewise, in order to serve and protect the population and at the same time take care of the Lebanese police itself, priority is given to both internal and external communication, so training in assertive communication techniques has been carried out following the model of the National Police.
Victim identification in major disasters
On 4 August 2020, an explosion took place in the port of Beirut, causing widespread destruction of homes, businesses and infrastructure. In addition, this explosion left more than 200 people dead, more than 7000 injured and some bodies missing. This disaster revealed the weaknesses of ISF personnel in identifying victims in major disasters.
But it also made it possible, as part of the project to support community policing in Lebanon, to organise an activity in which members of the General Commissariat of the Scientific Police of the National Police trained members of the Scientific Police of the ISF for ten days, with the aim of providing a professional response to the families of the victims at the time of identification and avoiding some of the mistakes that have been made in traumatic events such as the explosion in the port of Beirut, although it is normal in such situations and pressures that mistakes are made, hence the importance of continuing training for any situation that may arise.
First response in emergency situations
In recent years there have been a large number of terrorist or “lone wolf” attacks in Europe. The first responders to these attacks are elite special teams such as SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics Team). However, the reality is that the first responders in such situations are the patrols, who were not trained in how to handle such scenarios. These patrols were formed to be able to mitigate, minimise and neutralise while awaiting the arrival of the special forces that intervene in these cases.
In Lebanon, it was decided to implement this same approach based on lessons learned from Europe, due to the high number of weapons circulating among the population and public disorder events such as bank robberies or shootings that require responses from emergency and imminent danger units.
For this reason, within the framework of the European project, specialists from the National Police’s Prevention and Reaction Units have carried out six training activities for the benefit of the Lebanese ISF emergency units. More than 100 Lebanese police officers from the municipalities of Beirut, Dekwaneh, Saida and Tripoli, involved in direct response to 112 calls, have been trained. The main objective of this first response is to “save lives” and minimise the risk and danger to citizens in case of imminent danger. In addition, personnel from both the Internal Security Forces (ISF) and the municipal police are being trained in first aid techniques and equipped with the necessary equipment, so that they can react to any type of damage or injury.
Domestic violence is an endemic problem in Lebanon. In 2020, the number of cases of gender-based violence increased from 747 to 1,468 according to statistics collected by the FSI.
Dos expertas de la Policía Nacional han realizado una evaluación con diferentes unidades policiales de las FSI, organizaciones de la sociedad civil y del sector de la justicia y se han formulado unas recomendaciones para la creación de una Unidad de Violencia de Género.
Two experts from the National Police have conducted an assessment with different police units of the FSI, civil society organisations and the justice sector and recommendations for the creation of a Gender-Based Violence Unit have been formulated.
In order to promote the creation of this specialised unit, a training plan has been established and carried out, consisting of four courses lasting ten days each, which have been carried out by specialists from the General Commissariat of the Judicial Police and the Family and Women’s Attention Units (UFAM). 117 members of the FSI belonging to the Judicial Police, Control Room, Human Rights Division and Investigation Department have been able to benefit from this specialised training. These units lead investigations into this type of crime and provide direct assistance to victims of domestic violence, minors and vulnerable groups.
After participating in the training on domestic violence carried out by the Judicial Police and the UFAM, police officer Taghrid Fayad states “We, as female police officers, consider that any woman who suffers domestic violence can be a sister or a mother. These training sessions are very beneficial and help to strengthen our skills to reduce domestic violence cases“.
For his part, Colonel Elie Al Asmar says “we have found that we can refer to good practices and long experience in the fight against domestic violence in Spain and we try to learn from them and make these good practices work in our police stations”.
Tras mirar hacia atrás y realizar un análisis para proyectarnos en los próximos dos años del proyecto hasta su finalización, seguiremos trabajando con la participación de la Policía Nacional en actividades previstas para el 2023. Una de las próximas actividades que tendrá lugar entre el 28 de enero y el 10 de febrero será sobre cómo gestionar las denuncias por parte de los ciudadanos hacia miembros de la Policía. Especialistas de la Unidad de Régimen Disciplinario de la Policía Nacional proporcionarán una formación específica a los miembros de las unidades de régimen interior de las FSI sobre cómo gestionar las quejas de la población libanesa.
After looking back and conducting an analysis to project the next two years of the project until its completion, we will continue to work with the participation of the National Police in activities planned for 2023. One of the next activities that will take place between 28 January and 10 February will be on how to handle complaints from citizens to members of the police. Specialists from the Disciplinary Regime Unit of the National Police will provide specific training to members of the FSI’s internal regime units on how to handle complaints from the Lebanese population.
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