Haiti National Police History

Under Jean-Claude Duvalier, the Haitian National Police (HNP) existed as a two-operation department, under the Haitian Army: the Port-au-Prince Police and Rural Security Companies. Post-Duvalier, the 1987 Constitution proposed forming an independent police cadre and police academy, but political turmoil barred this from happening.


After Duvalier, only Port-au-Prince could claim the semblance of a police department. It ran under the control of the Haitian Army. Its capabilities were severely limited, but it bore responsibility for drug and border patrol enforcement, and other criminal matters. Rural Security was not an actual police force. Comprised of soldiers stationed at small posts outside major towns and cities, lower-level military officers acted as police heads.

Fusion of military and civilian bodies subjected the Haitian National Police to corruption. Disorganization and unclear lines of authority allowed vigilante group infiltration, thwarting reform efforts. Paramilitary groups formed at a moment's notice for aimless crime sprees, and breakdown in the line of command led to further abuses. The military, police, and government attacked politicians and other political dissenters. Abuses also spread to detainees and prison inmates.

From 1986 to1989, full-scale protests were mounted against the government and more violence followed. By 1995 Haiti retired its army, leaving Port-au-Prince and rural areas without adequate police protection. The void was filled with government officials assuming roles within the HNP, but unqualified to be effective heads.

Although some small improvement has happened in the last decade, the military continues to sway politics within the police units, rendering them ineffective to address human rights issues, a necessary part of modern law enforcement.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti has worked with the Haitian National Police since 2004 to strengthen security operations, but endemic crime and paralyzing gang warfare threaten to undo what little progress has been made.

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