Eric Beinhart, Associate Director, Department of Justice, International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP). Eric has been detailed to USAID as a Senior Criminal Justice Advisor since February 2009.

People typically associate police with the investigation and prosecution of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) cases, but they often do not know the critical role that police play in combating TIP through prevention, protection, and the building of partnerships.

In many countries police are the largest representative of government and should be seen as key instruments to combating TIP.  Police can work closely with citizens and civil society organizations to help implement civic education programs, community and school intervention programs for youths at risk, and community meetings to discuss crime problems in an effort to prevent TIP.  As first responders to crimes, police play a vital protection role by connecting TIP victims with medical and social services. Police also strengthen the connection between rule of law and education, social services, civil society and local governance.

Unfortunately, official corruption, especially police corruption, is a major problem when it comes to combating TIP. USAID’s work to strengthen civil society and media in various countries, however, helps empower citizens to hold their governments accountable.

In terms of prosecution, TIP programming often places too much emphasis on building the capacity of police to investigate TIP cases. Teaching investigative skills to police who work in an agency that lacks basic policies and procedures, fundamental leadership and management principles, and consistent staffing patterns is akin to buying chandeliers to install in a mansion before the foundation is built. This is why, in the post-Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review World, the U.S. Government must pursue a strong interagency approach to combating TIP.

Indonesia is an excellent example of how close cooperation between the Department of Justice, the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP), the Department of State’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau (INL),  and USAID has made impressive progress in combating TIP. The Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), funded by GTIP, pursued a “Point of Origin” strategy in Indonesia where remote locations used by criminals to traffic in persons, drugs, endangered species, and illegal timber were targeted for combating TIP. USAID collaborated with ICITAP to identify local NGOs working on TIP, and ICITAP then organized and presented joint counter-TIP training for police and NGO members. This partnership created a solid foundation for information sharing between citizens and police on TIP, which led to several arrests and convictions. The project also produced master police trainers who were then deployed throughout the country. This approach was incorporated into the long-term sustainable institutional development program that ICITAP launched with the Indonesian National Police in 2000 with funding from the Department of State’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau.

Police can play a critical, multiplier role in addressing human trafficking around the world. However, USAID and the interagency must use caution when considering police assistance for trafficking in persons programs and be vigilant in identifying corruption and human rights issues beforehand.