Police and the People Become Closer in Herat
February 2015 – In a country like Afghanistan, emerging from decades of conflict, people deeply feel the need for a police force that is closer to the community. Traditionally, Afghan citizens have harboured suspicion and fear towards the police dating back to the years of war. But this image is now gradually changing as the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MOIA) has rolled out a model for Community Oriented Policing with technical support and funding from the Law and Order Trust Fund, which seeks to bring communities and police closer to each other.
In a good number of cities and rural communities in Afghanistan, community elders now regularly meet with police officers to share security updates from their respective areas and inform them of any foreseeable threats to their security and safety.
- Community elders in Herat, now regularly meet and share with police officers security updates from their respective areas.
- In Herat, people have played volleyball, football and wrestling with the police at public playgrounds in Herat city and its adjacent districts.
- According to a recent report of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, over the last 18 months, residents of Herat have reported 700 suspicious incidents to the police.
- UNDP supports the Community Policing model as part of the implementation of the Law and Order Trust Fund in eight major provinces across the country, including Herat.
Herat city and its neighbouring districts of Injeel, Guzara and Karukh have set inspiring and clear examples of this new engagement between the community and police. Community members and the Afghan National Police personnel in Herat have recently come together in friendly sport matches, for example. This has attracted a lot of attention in the province and people gradually become more comfortable in their interactions with police.
So far, in Herat ordinary people have played volleyball, football and wrestling with police at public playgrounds in Herat city and its adjacent districts. Small sports events attract up to 200 viewers from the community and local government and police authorities, while large events have seen the participation of over 3,000 people.
“When I saw police for the first time in sports outfit, I felt myself very close to them,” says a Herat city resident Abdul Sami. “During the match I got a chance to chat with some policemen and found them so friendly.”
As people in Herat city gets closer to police, signs of enhanced cooperation between them have emerged that will ensure better security in the city as well as the neighbouring districts. “I can see how people became so supportive while we are patrolling inside the city,” says, Abdul Ghaffar, a police football player from Herat city. “I can recall that many times people have shared their problems and complaints with us when we met them in the playgrounds.
I’ve now realized that without people’s help, we can’t maintain security.”
Citizens being in touch over informal occasions with police creates an environment of trust among them. As a result of regular meetings of community representatives with police and community-police sports games in Herat, there has been a surge in the number of calls to 119 Call Centre and visits to the seven police information desks in the province.
According to a recent report of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, over the last 18 months, residents of Herat have reported 700 suspicious incidents to the police and such contacts made by the public resulted in dozens of security incidents being prevented in Herat.
Residents of Herat city admit unprecedented improvements in behaviour of police towards them. A Herat city entrepreneur Khalid Shahim says, “Police have started to win people’s confidence, however there are areas such as literacy in which they still have to grow.”
Some people associate improvements in the local security situation within the province to the regular contacts between the public and police. “Herat has been recently witnessing less insurgent attacks and I think this is because the police have focused more attention on countering suspicious activities as they’re fed with reports from the people,” says Nazir Ahmad Azizi, a resident of Herat city.
The community policing initiative is aimed at bringing the police closer to the communities they serve. In addition to joint sports events and regular consultation meetings with people’s representatives, a number of other efforts, such as community outreach campaigns and making complaints boxes available in various locations, have also been employed in Herat that have built on police’s relations with the public.
UNDP supports the Community Policing model as part of the implementation of the Law and Order Trust Fund in eight major provinces across the country, including Herat.