Kosovo police lauded for major operation assume increasingly important role – UN

Officials from the police component of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said that all security and crowd-control measures for January’s funeral of the province’s President had been handled by local police units, based on the training that they had received from international officers.“This is being considered the most successful operation conducted in Kosovo post 1999 even though it was unfortunate that the first occasion for the KPS to prove themselves to this degree was one of such sadness at the loss of their President,” Kai Vittrup, UNMIK Police Commissioner, told the UN News Service.“It has been the largest single operation that has ever been completed in Kosovo, and it was led and run by KPS, albeit with some guidance, although no international officers were involved at the street level and only mentoring and advice was given at the command level,” he added.The force received similar praise last month when the senior UN envoy to Kosovo gave his latest briefing on the province to the Security Council, saying that he felt “bound to salute the performance” of the 3,500 Kosovo police officers on duty at the funeral for their “professionalism and sensitivity.”“In Pristina, there were officers from the North part of Mitrovica, from Gracanica and Strpce. Neither one was differentiated from the others but all were officers performing to the highest-level of professionalism in this dignified ceremony,” said KPS chief Colonel Behar Selimi, himself an ethnic Albanian, referring to Serb majority areas. But UN police officials say that the success of the funeral operation is only the latest example in the rebirth of a force built up since the United Nations took over the running of Kosovo in 1999 when NATO drove out Yugoslav troops amid human rights abuses in fighting between Serbs and Albanians.Paul Hutchings, UNMIK’s Deputy Police Commissioner for Operations, said that the UN police component has now handed over most of the responsibilities for policing operations in the province to the KPS.Mr. Hutchings stressed the extensive training that the UN police had provided to their Kosovo counterparts, noting in particular that almost 2,000 local officers had now been trained in the latest and most effective methods of riot control, while local minority police officers had been assigned to villages that had felt neglected by the force.Turning to the specific crime-fighting role in the province, UNMIK’s Deputy Police Commissioner for Crime, Bob Morrison, also said that the local force had become more directly involved in this aspect of policing.In particular, Mr. Morrison said that Regional Crime Squads were now under KPS control, while the total number of local officers involved directly or indirectly in investigations throughout Kosovo had also increased over the past year.UNMIK Police Commissioner Vittrup acknowledged that the UN police still has work to do in Kosovo but he said that the success of local officers in mounting the funeral operation, in addition to their other achievements, showed that despite the difficulties things were on the right track.“As the UNMIK police component begins 2006, we are able to survey the achievements of the past year and see that our work, while not complete, is approaching its end,” Mr. Vittrup told the UN News Service.“Our mandate at the beginning of the mission was to provide for the safety and security of the residents of Kosovo and to create and train a Kosovo Police Service, which I’m proud to say is well on its way to developing into a respected, professional law enforcement body,” the Commissioner concluded.

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