Does the United States Need a New Police Force for Stability Operations?
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S tability operations have become a promi- nent feature of the international landscape. Recent examples include U.S. and UN oper- ations in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, Afghani- stan, and Iraq. Such operations involve military forces that often engage insurgent forces until indigenous forces can take over that role. But military forces are ill suited for some critical tasks in stability operations that might be described as high-end police tasks. High-end tasks fall into the gap between normal police and military forces and include such activities as riot control, criminal investigations, and SWAT activities. e police who engage in these activities do so with the intent of rooting out criminals or insur- gents who have a vested interest in perpetuating chaos. Unlike some countries that have such police forces—notably Italy with its Carabinieri or France with its Gendarmerie—the United States does not have stability police. Given the likelihood of such operations in the future, the question arises whether the United States should develop such forces. A team of researchers from RAND Arroyo Center studied this issue, and they report their results in A Stability Police Force for the United States: Justification and Options for Creating U.S. Capabilities. e analysis focused on answering three questions:
Should the United States have a Stability Police Force (SPF)?
If so, how should it be organized and staffed?
Where should it be located in the U.S. government?
Should the United States Have a Stability Police Force?
e question of whether the United States should
have an SPF involves a number of issues and assumptions. Assumptions include the following: having SPF personnel with civilian police skills would be optimal; only SPF that work daily with
The United States has increasingly become involved in operations that often require “high-end” police skills, e.g., crowd control or intelligence collection. Military units typically lack such skills, and thus the question arises whether the United States should develop such a force. The authors recommend creation of a 6,000-person force located in the U.S. Marshals Service. It should be a hybrid force composed of active and reserve personnel, and a battalion-sized element should be able to deploy within 30 days.
civilian populations can carry out the maximum number of SPF tasks; any new agency would be difficult to establish; and it is much easier to con- duct stability operations in smaller countries.
Arroyo researchers conclude that an SPF is an important—even critical—capability for the United States. e paramount task in stability operations is establishing security. Military forces have a necessary role in security but generally cannot do it on their own. Establishing security requires some tasks best done by police, and military forces often lack the training, experi- ence, and mindset for policing. Military force tends to be a rather blunt instrument, applying overwhelming force to secure victory rather than minimal force to prevent escalation. Military police have been trained in policing tasks, but they have little opportunity to hone those skills among civilian populations when not deployed. In past operations, the United States has drawn on allies to provide SPF, but it will not always be able to count on these countries to provide such forces. Finally, using military forces as police is not only less effective but also more expensive.