The 8,546 member HNP has sole responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order; there are no military forces. Besides the temporary United Nations force, the Haitian National Police (HNP - Police Nationale d’Haïti PNH) was the only security force in the country following the disbandment of the Haitian military. The 1994 international intervention which restoreddemocracy to Haiti also created the first independent policeforce in the nation's history. Multinational military forces,the UN and other international agencies laid the groundwork forthis new police force. Challenges faced by the new HaitianNational Police included cultural barriers, lack of leadershipwithin the force and incomplete connectivity with other elementsof the Haitian government.
Initially, the United States sought to help Haiti recruit and train 6,500 police officers, and by 1998 the police force reached a peak of about 6,500 officers. However, shortages of personnel plague the current police force. According to the Haitian police, the force has 5,892 police officers, but according to U.S. and other donor officials, the force is actually much smaller—ranging between 3,500 and 4,500 police officers. Compared with a country like El Salvador, with 19,000 police officers serving about 6 million people, Haiti — with its approximately 8 million population — has a relatively small police force.
In 2008 MINUSTAH deployed 6,854 soldiers, 1,858 police officers, and 494 civilian UN officials, trained and supported the national police force, provided disaster recovery assistance, and assisted the government in suppressing gang-related violence. The UN estimated that the country needs a force of at least 14,000 police.
Following the 1994 intervention, the United States and other donor countries sought to enhance democracy, development, and human rights by supporting the Haitian Ministry of Justice, the police, the judicial sector, prisons, and nongovernmental groups. From fiscal years 1995 through 2000, the United States extended its assistance to the Haitian police and judicial sector primarily in the form of training, technical advice, equipment, and related support. Similar to assistance efforts provided in other countries, the United States provided assistance to the Haitian justice system without specific conditions for implementing the assistance, such as requiring the Haitian government to adopt and fund improvements made possible by the assistance. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and two organizations within the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division—the International Criminal Investigative and Training Assistance Program and the Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training—implemented the majority of this assistance.
From 1994 through 2000 the United States provided assistance to help Haiti establish its first civilian-controlled police and improve some aspects of the judicial sector and the access of the population to justice services. About $70 million in U.S. assistance helped Haiti recruit, train, organize, and equip a basic police force, including specialized units, such as an antinarcotics unit, a special investigative unit, and the Haitian Coast Guard. During the same period, the United States provided about $27 million in assistance that led to some improvements in the training of magistrates and prosecutors, the management practices of judicial institutions, and the access of the population to justice services. However, despite these achievements, the police force had not effectively carried out its basic law enforcement responsibilities, and events in 2000 suggested that politicization has compromised the force, according to U.S. and other donor officials. The judicial sector also has serious weaknesses, including lack of independence from the executive branch, outdated legal codes, cumbersome judicial proceedings, personnel shortages, inadequate infrastructure and equipment, and ineffective internal oversight.
The HNP is an officially autonomous civilian institution under the authority of a director general and includes police, corrections, and coast guard functions in separate units. The Ministry of Justice, through its minister and the secretary of state for public security, provides oversight. The PNH operates units dedicated to crime response (SWAT), crowd control in Port-au-Prince, and security in the Ouest Department. Additionally, a well-funded Presidential Security Unit exists. Although officially part of the police force, the Presidential Security Unit operates with its own budget and administration.
During President Aristide’s second term (2000-4) political appointees took over many key positions in the PNH. In many instances, these appointees lacked security experience and compromised the political neutrality of the force. After Aristide fled the country, the interim president removed 200 corrupt and inexperienced officers in an effort to improve the PNH’s effectiveness. New training ensued to teach police officers how to balance security and human rights concerns. Still, problems remain. Former military personnel have considerable influence with the police force, and some have begun to push for the reestablishment of the Haitian army.
Since its inception, the PNH has suffered from mismanagement, corruption, and a lack of funding. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has helped make up for the shortfalls of the PNH since it arrived in Haiti in 2004. Many security operations have been undertaken jointly by the PNH and MINUSTAH. Nevertheless, crime and violence are significant concerns in Haiti.
The Haitian police are understaffed, poorly equipped and unable to respond to most calls for assistance. There are continued allegations of police complicity in criminal activity. The unsatisfactory response and enforcement capabilities of the Haitian national police and the weakness of the judiciary frustrate many victims of crime in Haiti. In the past, U.S. citizens involved in business and property disputes in Haiti have been arrested and detained without charge, and have been released only after intervention at high levels of the Haitian Government.
Prisons and detention centers throughout the country remained overcrowded, poorly maintained, and often unsanitary. The destruction of three prisons in 2004 and the large number of pretrial detainees in custody resulted in severe overcrowding. There were credible reports that in some prisons, detainees slept and stood in shifts due to lack of space. Some prisons had no beds for detainees. Many prison facilities lacked basic services such as adequate kitchens, medical services, electricity, and medical isolation units for contagious patients. Most prisons also periodically lacked water. Many prisoners and detainees suffered from a lack of basic hygiene, malnutrition, poor quality health care, and the presence of rodents. The incidence of preventable diseases such as AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis remained a serious problem.
The Preval Administration continued the struggle in 2008 to overcome pervasive corruption, weak governance and mismanagement. Haiti’s law enforcement institutions are weak and its judicial system dysfunctional. With the support of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the Haitian National Police (HNP) conducted a successful campaign in the Port-au-Prince area to disrupt gang elements involved in kidnapping, drug trafficking, and intimidation. Although the campaign decreased criminal activity in those areas, the Government of Haiti (GOH) has yet to deliver the sustained police presence needed to curb the gangs’ criminal activity. The GOH with assistance from international donors – principally MINUSTAH, the United States and Canada – continues to promote the restoration of the rule of law.
Reform and professionalization of the HNP continued as international programs provided human rights and other training and equipment for new recruits and for existing officers; police station upgrades; security and humanitarian improvements to prisons; vehicles, computers, and communications equipment; and other technical assistance. During 2008 more than 2,000 police officers were vetted for human rights abuses, complicity in criminal acts, and other violations. Nevertheless, reform efforts remained incomplete, and HNP officers occasionally were implicated in corruption, kidnapping, and narcotics trafficking. The Corrections Department of the HNP did not perform the same vetting and background procedures on new employees and guards as its HNP law enforcement counterparts; the director general dismissed 19 corrections cadets prior to graduation due to improper, biased recruiting. With the assistance of the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights and the international community, the HNP participated in human rights training.
A 2008 MINUSTAH poll reported that 58 percent of the population perceived improvement in the HNP during the year. In another poll 66 percent of respondents listed the HNP as the most trusted government institution.
Although the HNP's efforts resulted in significantly increased levels of physical security and policing effectiveness, in many cases the HNP could not prevent or respond to gang-related and other societal violence due to an insufficient number of officers and inadequate equipment or training. In April 2008 MINUSTAH provided assistance when violent protests in Les Cayes and Port-au-Prince overwhelmed HNP responders.
The Haitian National Police increased their visibility in 2009 and are gradually contributing to improving public security, especially in the metropolitan area of the capital, However, assistance from Haitian authorities is often unavailable.
"Haiti’s reality is understood through socio-economic devastation, criminality, a weak and corrupt government, a disenfranchised and frustrated population, and an uncertain future for the international in-tervention.... efforts in Haiti have produced poor returns, with few gains made toward an environment conducive to development, democracy, peace, and security. Despite having spent hundreds of millions of dollars for intervention support dedicated to the reform of the Haitian security sector, strengthening the rule of law through policing and law enforcement remains elusive.... Considering that Haiti remains a failed state marked by economic devastation, environmental degradation, gang warfare, egregious human rights violations, and abject poverty, it is difficult to estimate just how much time will be required to invest in Haiti to increase its resilience."