Haiti will replace national police head to combat gangs

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By Creative Media News

  • Haiti replaces police chief to combat gangs
  • PM Conille vows to reinforce police force
  • UN-backed multinational force deployment delayed

The newly formed administration in Haiti has announced the replacement of the chief of the embattled national police force in the latest effort to combat gang violence in the crisis-plagued country.

The prime minister’s office has stated that former police chief Rameau Normil will succeed Frantz Elbe.

The action comes as Haiti’s new prime minister, Garry Conille, faces growing demand to reinforce the Haitian National Police. Despite being in the vanguard of the fight against powerful armed gangs on the Caribbean island, the force needs to be better staffed and equipped.

A transitional council established Conille in May after gangs seized significant portions of the capital, Port au Prince, earlier this year, deposing previous Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

Pierre Esperance of the National Network for Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH) called Elbe’s tenure “catastrophic” in an interview with Reuters following Friday’s announcement of the shift.

According to Esperance, Elbe’s leadership of the police has had disastrous consequences, and he should be prosecuted.

He spent his whole time establishing relationships with the gangs, reinforcing the gangs and preventing cops from doing their job and risking their lives,” according to him.

Haiti’s police unions have also regularly demanded Elbe’s resignation and imprisonment, citing gang raids on at least 30 police stations and substations in recent months as part of a wave of attacks that began on February 29.

On Wednesday, the SPNH-17 police union held a news conference to denounce the department’s situation under the Elbe. SYNAPOHA, another police union, joined the request for Conille to strengthen the department earlier this week.

The latest development came as Haiti waited for the deployment of a Kenya-led, UN-backed multinational security force made up of 1,000 Kenyan officers and people from a few Caribbean countries.

That army was supposed to deploy in late May, but its arrival has been continually postponed.

For his part, Normil led the national police from mid-2019 to late 2020 under former President Jovenel Moise, who was slain in 2021.

Previously, he oversaw the detective section. The replacement’s effective date needed to be clarified.

Fight against gang violence

Haiti’s rapidly diminishing police force has suffered from a lack of resources while confronting criminal organizations armed with high-calibre weaponry, which the UN claims are primarily trafficked from the neighbouring United States.

According to the UN, the police force will have more than 13,200 personnel by 2023. However, the international organization has warned that only approximately 4,000 police officers are on duty at any given time in a country of 11 million people.

Meanwhile, a recent RNDDH study indicated that 20 police officers had been killed this year, bringing the total to almost 320 since 2015.

Police personnel frequently complained about late pay, poor training, workplace harassment, firing threats, knife and gunshot injuries, and equipment shortages.

Nonetheless, Haiti’s new Conille-led administration has committed to implementing change.

Haiti is facing severe issues. Violence and instability paralyze our daily lives, Conille stated at an official event on Wednesday.

“My government will work without rest to improve the conditions of each and every Haitian,” he stated, adding that “without security, no sustainable progress can be achieved.”

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“It is crucial our police and soldiers are ready to face today’s security challenges,” Conille stated, “and we will ensure that they have the tools they need to carry out their mission effectively and professionally.”

The Citizens’ Protection Office, Haiti’s ombudsman, has urged Normil to develop a plan to manage the gangs and reform the police force “without delay”.

It has also urged authorities to explain the high number of homicides and the “spectacular” recent escape of around 4,500 detainees due to prior authorities’ “complete indifference”.

According to the most recent UN figures, gang violence in Haiti has forced 578,000 people to flee their homes. Thousands of people have died as a result of the upheaval, and millions have been forced to go hungry.

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