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Haitian police say they’re victims too, demand better support to squash violence

Haitian police
Haitian police officers riding on the back of a pick up truck. Photo by Georges H. Rouzier for The Haitian Times

The Haitian Times
www.haitiantimes.com 
By Murdith Joseph and Juhakenson Blaise

PORT-AU-PRINCE — A lack of crime-fighting equipment and fair benefits and miserable working conditions have left police officers unable to combat gangs around the capital, members of Haiti’s National Police (PNH) said this week. Such bandits are believed to be behind a series of turf wars last weekend around the area that left several dead, including a one-year-old child. 

Two police unions within PNH — the Union of the Haitian National Police 17 and the National Union of Haitian Police Officers — presented at a June 7 press conference an array of psychological, mental and resourcing factors they say are curbing PNH’s ability to protect its own members and civilians against rampant insecurity.

Lionel Lazare, coordinator for National Union of Haitian Police Officers, said members of the institution are also victims of insecurity in Haiti. The police force will make substantial progress against crime after improving and strengthening its equipment capacity. 

“In recent times, the police have been severely affected by insecurity,” Lazare said during the press conference. “I call out the authorities to take measures to stop the bloodshed.” 

“With the improvement of the working conditions we will find the means,” said  Elder Lundy, spokesperson for the Union of the Haitian National Police 17.

For more than two years, increased violence in Haiti has claimed the lives of thousands, many of them members of the Haitian National Police. From January to June, gang members shot dead 25 police officers, Lazare said on local radio Magik 9 on June 8.

Deadly weekend leaves baby dead, among others

As police members were calling on Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s government to create a better work environment for them, the civilian population continued to cry out against growing insecurity.

ver the weekend of June 3 through 5, several people were reported shot dead and many others wounded as armed bandits battled each other again in Fontamara. The neighborhood is in the commune of Carrefour, just south of Port-au-Prince proper.

A baby,whose identity has not been confirmed, and a young boy were among those killed while inside their home at Fontamara 43. Stanley Jean-Julien, president of the civil organization Chemin Lumière, Unité et Changement sur 65 Formes, spoke about the deaths on local outlets.

Others killed include a 20-year-old student shot on the roof of her house and a young man, identified as Jeff Midy. He was shot in front of his house and later died en route  to the hospital.

Rampant crime around capital spares no one

Meanwhile, kidnapping-for-ransom continues to be a fixture of daily Haitian life after they began increasing nearly two years ago.

On June 7, the wife of filmmaker Arnold Antonin was kidnapped from her family’s home in Thomassin, a neighborhood in Pétion-Ville. According to local radio reports, armed individuals entered the house, tied up Antonin and house staff, then kidnapped Ms. Antonin.

On June 4, Claircius Dorvilus, a Catholic priest, was taken hostage alongside three other people in Laplate Neraque, Bassin Bleu, a commune in the Northwestern Department, Le Nouvelliste reported.

Better workplace, family benefits needed for PNH to function

To fight these criminals, the police unions said, they need the support of the public as they are determined to restore peace and order, despite the precarious working and living conditions.

However, the government must provide better benefits for officers and their families. The absence of such employee benefits is yet another disheartening aspect influencing police performance. 

“When police officers will no longer have to worry about health and food issues, difficulties to pay for their children’s school and to take care of their families overall, that will result in a high capacity police [force] capable of tackling any challenges,” said Gary Jean-Baptiste, an advisor member of SPNH-17.

“It is inconceivable that the kids of police officers killed while trying to stop individuals causing trouble, later become thugs [themselves] who are hunted by the police,” Jean-Baptiste said.

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