“Everything in police work is related to training”

Rainer Koor, from Estonia, joined EUPOL COPPS as a Police Adviser on Training in October, 2018. In this capacity, he supports the training department of the Palestinian Civil Police (PCP) and the Palestinian College for Policing Sciences (PCPS) and also coordinates support with other donors. He is about to leave the Mission for an exciting new position at the EU’s civilian Mission in Somalia (EUCAP Somalia), but before leaving he agreed to share some thoughts about his time in Ramallah.

He is keen to underline the importance of training for police officers in delivering their duty to protect the public, and also in building public trust. “Training is related to everything in police work,” he says. “That’s why our partners in the PCP and PCPS ask us and other donors for support in this area. When police officers are working in their districts, they should work well. If police officers aren’t trained enough, this leads to negative feedback from the public”.

Koor is complimentary about his Palestinian counterparts, “there are many good trainers – active and smart guys. It’s nice to work with them. They are open to advice, and that’s what makes working with them good”.

Building sustainability into the training system for Palestinian police officers has been an important part of Koor’s work. “A key factor is having well-trained trainers within the police force who can train others. This will ensure that they can sustain the training cycle themselves and there is local ownership over the process. One of our main goals is to support a ‘train the trainers’ approach, so there is sustainability”.

Another way of ensuring sustainability is having a database that records who has done which training. “At the moment, the records of training are on paper,” says Koor. “This makes it more difficult to know who has done what and who needs what. With a database, it will be easier to find, for example, people who have done extensive training programmes in Turkey or Jordan and match them with the training curriculum for Palestinian police officers”.

“We developed a training database, and have hired people to improve the functioning of the database with input from the PCP. Since the beginning of the year, our Palestinian colleagues have a better overview of their trainers and officers and hopefully, this will make PCP training more logical and smoother”.

The Covid-19 pandemic, and the requirement for social distancing, has created major challenges for the training programme. “Right now, we are trying to map the online training capacity of the PCPS and PCP,” says Koor. “How do you deliver training in circumstances where everything has to be online? Police officers can’t travel to the Police Training College”.

The Estonian police officer continues, “We have donated a lot of laptops to the districts, so they have enough workstations for online training, but software is an issue. The PCP are using free software, which limits things”.

The Covid-19 pandemic also means that meetings between EUPOL COPPS and other donors in the law enforcement sector, primarily from Europe and North America, have to take place online. EUPOL COPPS takes the lead in ensuring that activities carried out by donors are coordinated, and coordination is a major part of Koor’s job.

Asked what the main areas are where training capacity can be improved, Koor mentions mentoring of new recruits, increasing the number of female trainers and mainstreaming human rights issues into the training.

On mentoring, he says “School is school and life is life. If you are a young officer and you are left alone in the field just after finishing basic training, that can lead to mistakes. You want to strengthen the system where older officers can mentor younger ones”.

Turning to the subject of female trainers, he says, “There are female trainers, but not enough. For example, in areas such as self-defence training, which requires physical contact, it is important for female recruits to have a female instructor – otherwise, they won’t get this training”. 

He also underlines the importance of having human rights considerations in all of the aspects of training. “The PCP and PCPS have human rights modules in their training plan, but it has to be included in every module. For example, when you are training on house searches or handcuffing people, it’s good to have someone who can ask the question ‘how would you feel if it was you being handcuffed or searched?’ and teach from this perspective. There are good experts, but everyone is an expert in their particular area of expertise and trains on that. Having human rights modules is good, but ideally every module would have a human rights element”. 

Koor is excited about moving to Somalia, but there are certain things he will miss about leaving Ramallah. “What I will miss the most is the extremely friendly, helpful and, despite the difficult times, always smiling locals, great colleagues and delicious food,” he concludes.