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Shipping stability in a box to Iraq

Canada in Iraq
Elimination of violence
May 31, 2018

Iraqi citizens meet with a police officer in a tent that was shipped to their community in a “Police Presence in a Box” container.

In 2017, 100 communities in Iraq received an unusual gift: a “Police Presence Box”.

These boxes, essentially shipping containers, included equipment police officers needed to serve their communities: large tents, first aid kits, laptops, tables, chairs and more. The tents now provide temporary shelters where citizens can meet with police in communities where permanent, bricks-and-mortar police stations have been destroyed.

From the beginning of the war in 2014, Daesh severely damaged police infrastructure in Iraq; in areas controlled by the terrorist group, 85% of police buildings have been destroyed and nearly all police equipment and vehicles have been looted. This destruction left behind a security vacuum that allowed the terrorist group to stay active through sleeper cells and to maintain its funding through organized crime.

“The Police Presence in a Box project represents the first rung in the ladder of returning Iraq to a stable and secure society for its citizens,” wrote Inspector Andrew Norrie of the Toronto Police Service during his deployment to Baghdad from August 2017 to August 2018. “These temporary infrastructures are a symbol and beacon of a return to normalcy. They represent safety and security for communities and a place for citizens to engage with their local police again.”

This project is one of the many initiatives supported by Canada’s work in Iraq. Since 2016, officers from Canadian municipal, provincial and federal police services have been deployed to that country as part of the Global Coalition Against Daesh. Their mission is to assist the Government of Iraq as it combats Daesh by providing advice and by coordinating a variety of projects to help professionalize police institutions. Together with colleagues from seven other countries, they are leading the effort to transition police agencies from war-fighting to policing. They focus on training and on promoting gender equality and human rights as part of their work.

“My particular portfolio is the Energy Police Force,” Inspector Norrie said. That agency is responsible for protecting energy sector infrastructure, which drives over 90% of the Iraqi government’s revenue. “This department protects the critical infrastructure from extremist attacks and combats theft of resources and smuggling, which was a funding source for Daesh. I assist the Energy Police with identifying training and equipment requirements.”

Inspector Lorne Constantinoff works for the Saskatoon Police Service and served in Iraq for one year. He describes the contribution made by Canadians as “a very small, but essential cog in a big wheel”. His day-to-day work while on deployment usually included managing major projects, as well as planning and coordinating training opportunities and equipment delivery. A big part of his work focused on strengthening relationships. “My mission is to build a trusting relationship with Iraqi police leaders and assist them through advice and dialogue in matters that will professionalize the service they provide to the people of Iraq,” he said while in Baghdad. “The end user of police services is the community. The legitimacy of the police through their eyes is critical. I see my role, as an adviser and an experienced Canadian police officer, as looking for opportunities to help them in this regard.”

An officer from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police observes students of a Law and Order course practising proper handcuffing techniques in Baghdad. The course is taught by Canadian officers alongside members of Italy’s Carabinieri.

In addition to the advisers who collaborate with Iraqi officials, other Canadian officers are working alongside members of Italy’s Carabinieri. This Italian-led mission focuses on training various Iraqi police forces, including the officers using the “Police Presence” shipping containers. Canadian police provide training on community-based policing and other topics.

In Iraq, days are long and work stretches through weekends. Mission time is 24/7, and duties as essential as travelling inside the country can be difficult, turning simple activities into daily challenges. But inspectors Constantinoff and Norrie both describe their work as rewarding. “Canadians have a long history of being known for supporting peace-building efforts,” Inspector Constantinoff said. “Having been deployed two times previously, I can say from experience that Canadians are respected worldwide for being professional, compassionate and giving. I am honoured to have the opportunity to represent my country in this way.”

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Staff Sergeant Shayne Smith sits with the students of a Law and Order course in Baghdad. The course is taught by Canadian officers alongside members of Italy’s Carabinieri.

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