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UN official hails 'outstanding' post-quake performance of Haitian police

28 January 2010 – Haiti’s police force has made an “outstanding” effort to maintain law and order in the wake of this month’s catastrophic earthquake, a senior United Nations official said today, noting that the force has continued to carry out its work despite the collapse of its headquarters and many police stations the loss of hundreds of personnel.

Nearly three quarters of the 14,000-strong Haitian National Police (HNP) are back on the street following the 12 January quake, which is estimated to have killed 150,000 people and impacted 3 million others.

“It’s a huge tribute to them that 75 per cent of them are on the street and trying to maintain public order,” said David Harland, director of the Europe and Latin America division of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), in an interview for the UN News Centre.

He refuted media reports that the HNP collapsed or disappeared in the wake of the earthquake, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale. “In many ways, the perceptions are the opposite of what’s actually happening on the streets.”

The HNP’s tasks include the protection of key installations such as government buildings and banks, which, along with the telephone system, are functioning again, allowing people to wire money to their relatives in Haiti to help re-start the local economy.

Mr. Harland said that the police still face “huge challenges” in maintaining law and order, given the collapse of the main prison in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and the subsequent escape of 5,000 prisoners, some who escaped with HNP uniforms, Mr. Harland noted.

“The absolute best guarantee for a successful relief and reconstruction effort is a functioning Haitian Government,” he underscored, calling for stepped-up donor support to ensure that the police – supported by the police contingent from the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (known as MINUSTAH) – can continue their service on the streets of Port-au-Prince, the city hardest-hit by the earthquake.

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