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Latest News Last Updated: Mar 4, 2010 - 7:33:37 AM

Calgary police officers to join UN mission in Sudan

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Calgary police officers to join UN mission in Sudan


Pair will spend nine months in wartorn nation


RCMP Superintendent Paul Young speaks at the launch of the Calgary Police Service partnership with the RCMP in the International Peace Operations Program.

Photograph by: Ted Jacob, Calgary Herald, Calgary Herald

T wo Calgary police officers will travel to Sudan later this year as part of a United Nations mission aimed at bringing law and order to the wartorn African nation.

The officers will be the first under an agreement signed Wednesday by the Calgary Police Service to join an RCMP-led program that sends Canadian police abroad to train law enforcement agencies in unstable countries.

"We have a moral obligation to assist these developing countries," Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson said.

The mission is expected to last nine months, and the yet-to-be selected officers are scheduled to go to Sudan in September.

The RCMP has participated in foreign peacekeeping missions since 1989, and more than 20 other Canadian agencies have joined the initiative since 1995.

Since the inception of the International Police Peace Operations Program, 2,400 officers have participated in 50 missions to 28 countries.

Sending officers to faraway countries not only benefits them, but will have an impact in Canada, said Hanson and his RCMP counterparts.

Experience in Sudan, they said, will help the officers better understand Calgary's sizable Sudanese community when they come back.

"A safer world means a safer Canada and a safer Calgary," said RCMP Chief Supt. Peter Hourihan.

In addition to gaining greater cultural sensitivity, the officers will become better leaders by taking on greater responsibilities than they may be used to on the beat back home, Hourihan added.

This mission, and others in the future, will not affect the number of officers on the street: the positions are paid for with federal funds, meaning city police can hire replacements for the absent officers without any additional expense.

"There will be no decrease to our strength on the street," said Hanson.

Only officers with more than five years' experience are eligible to serve in the program. In addition to the selection process in their own agency, they are also vetted and trained by the RCMP before being sent on their mission and receive additional instruction at their new posting.

Going to volatile areas such as Haiti, Kosovo and Afghanistan is risky work, but Hanson said day-to-day policing carries its own perils.

"Can you ever guarantee a risk-free environment? In today's world, I don't think you can," he said.

While political instability is the most pressing threat, two RCMP officers stationed in Haiti were among the 200,000 killed by the earthquake that shattered the Caribbean nation in January.

One of the officers, Chief Supt. Doug Coates, who was acting commissioner of the UN stabilization mission in Haiti, had been instrumental in getting Calgary police involved in the international policing program.

"I'd like to think that signing this agreement . . . is a tribute to him," Hanson said.

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