Peace Support Operation

PSO – Security gap and Stability Police Units general concept





Stability Police Units


Stability Police Units are robust police organizations capable of performing specialized missions involving disciplined group action. They have the capacity to use non-lethal as well as lethal force. The French Gendarmerie and Italian Carabinieri are prominent examples of organizations possessing this hybrid of police and military characteristics.

In this view, the STABILITY POLICE UNITS are expected to be the optimal asset to be utilized to reduce as much as possible the “security gap” bearing in mind the overall situation that could be faced during the initial stages in mission Area, concepts like interaction and integrated approach with the military component, on one side, and with the civilian environment (local and international) on the other side, are to be considered as a matter of absolute priority.

In the context of stability operations SPUs should offer an operational, pre-organized, robust and rapidly deployable asset, able to perform a wide spectrum of police tasks in hostile environment that can stabilize chaotic situations and avoid retaliations. As we have seen, SPUs must bring capacity that can be either complementary to the military presence or independent in absence of military components (when the situation allows so), inter-acting with the local existing institutional/security apparatus, which may be immature or in any case they are vulnerable, and can be easily threatened by terrorism and organized crime.

Consequently, the purpose of the SPUs is to guarantee stability in a crisis area while sustaining local institutions in their rebuilding process.

Namely Stability Police Units should be involved since the beginning as an integrated tool of the military component in performing specific tasks like conducting police operation to support the stabilization process.

These forces must be structured in a way to possess capability to face a threat up to a certain extent, or conduct military operations at a level of light infantry troops, when needed. In fact, crowds can hide threats that may turn into an attack carried out with characteristics similar to the military, that’s why this capability is of high importance in a context of a stability operation.

Additionally, as a police force, they possess skill at working informally with local populations to build up confidence, and also at establishing partnerships with local authorities. This peculiarity stems from the traditional way of conducting police actvities , within a social-institutional environment, which seeks to establish a close, visible and accessible relationship with the public in the performance of their typical policing activities. Besides that, their criminal intelligence gathering skills and crime prevention background help to buttress nascent local institutions in areas of greatest vulnerability, allowing them to take appropriate action against unlawful activities that could threaten the peace process.

To confront these challenges effectively, the SPUs must be capable to operate within a wide spectrum of activities, such as:


  • Crowds and riot control
  • Border control
  • Restore public security and order



  • Elections security
  • VIP security



  • Prison security



  • Searches



  • Criminal investigations



  • High risk arrests
  • Vigilance to sensitive objectives



  • Negotiation



  • Reduce tension



  • Protect people and property



  • Establish contacts and acquire confidence with local population



  • Facilitate the reactivation of judicial and penal facilities;



  • Rebuild, educate, train, monitor and advise local police / local security organization if necessary .


In short, SPUs should have an effective Command and Control Organization, a Logistic Organization able to provide their self-sustainability, trained and equipped to react in case of attacks ensuring a sufficient level of self – defense/military deterrence to confront lightly armed or not well organized groups.

According to the above definitions, the following are the relevant features that an SPU must possess:


  • Robustness: an SPU has to be formed with a level of forces able to perform its mission in a non-stabilized area. To achieve this purpose, the force should consist of different components, equipment and armament to resolve a wide spectrum of potentially hostile confrontation, supported by its own logistic self-sufficiency commensurate with the operational parameters requested by the mandate and tasks assigned;
    • Rapidly deployable: SPUs may be deployed in a short time (about 30 days) after the decision to deploy has been taken by the country / coalition.
  • Flexibility: this is the attitude to operate in crisis situations with the same level of effectiveness in different scenarios within either a civilian or military chain of command, as well as to be able to execute the transformation from a substitution into a strengthening mission. Since there could be situations with no dedicated units to generate the force, SPU employment must be “mission tailored” based on a force generation process once a mission has been identified. The process should focus on establishing different SPU components properly calibrated, on the one hand to the different stages of the mission, and on the other hand to the:
  • local environment;
  • level of conflict, with specific reference to military and criminal aspects;
  • level of tension between the parties involved in the crisis.
    • Interoperability: it is the ability of systems, units or forces to provide services to and accept services from other systems, units or forces and to use the services so exchanged to enable them operate effectively together. It has to be achieved mainly trough common tactics, techniques and procedures as well as through an interoperable command and control (C2) system (CIS assets), based, in case of an international deployment, on the Leading Nation concept that it will explained later in this document. The official mission language will be the common language for C2
      • Multinationality: it is the accepted concept that in the world opinion increases and consolidates the legitimacy of a mission. SPUs can be a national asset or can stand ready to be integrated with units provided by other countries. Considering the need to guarantee a high level of impartiality and to not pursue only national interests, it is advisible that the deployment of SPUs be based on an international contribution. To facilitate the consent that the mission should receive in the area of operations, the contribution mix of different countries should be based on specific characteristics like religious and cultural affinities;
      • Effective Command and Control: Effective C2 is the ability to lead and direct units to attain the goals that have been set. In the case of international contribution for establishing an SPU, the contributing countries will ensure that the required communication and information tools are available for SPU needs. Early availability of CIS assets is a key success factor
      • Capability to perform executive tasks in non-stabilized situations.


The need for a unique and identifiable chain of command is necessary to the development of any mission and its structure will be determined according to tasks, political requirements and geography of the mission area. At the tactical level the command and control structure will be under the responsibility of the Head of Mission, who will identified through the OPLAN (Operational Plan), in accordance with the characteristics of the mission.


Since there is no predefined crisis establishment for an SPU, the SPU will be tailored, in terms of personnel and capabilities, on the basis of each mission requirements; the participation in prospective missions remains a national prerogative. The size of the unit, consequently, will be adapted to the different situations and scenarios,.




In relation with the establishment and deployment of an SPU, a reference to MSU (Multinational Specialized Unit) and IPU (Integrated Police Unit) models could be taken into consideration. In the case of an SPU organized on an international basis, it is advisable to follow the principle that the Staff should be based on international contribution, the mobile component and the specialized element could be international units but comprised of discrete elements provided on a national basis.

Synthetically, the following points and capabilities should be taken into consideration;


staff should be based on an international contribution and consists of functional branches;

  1. mobile component could consist of different mobile units – like the Formed Police Unit (FPU) model / company level, each provided on national basis; The mobile Element, that has to be considered a flexible tool, is an operative module responsible of conducting most of the SPU operations. The Unit consist of a complex of minor units whose structure is standardised on the basis of Contributing Countries standards. The size of the unit in terms of number of depending units, personnel and means will be tailored according the Mission mandate, the different mission stages and the contribution provided by each Nation..
  2. specialized Element is a very high value component consisting of personnel specialised in resolving actions (high-risk operations) and special investigative components and, if required, capable of providing training to the Local Police. It consists of different units/teams based upon the contribution provided by the troop contributing countries in relation to their own capabilities. Specifically, in providing personnel and equipment for a specialized element, at least the following capabilities and specific missions must be considered:
  • Special information and intelligence gathering (see annex E);
  • Police – like investigations;
  • VIP protection;
  • Special police operations, they are considered actions in cases of crisis management or when discriminate use of force is required and the surprise factor is an essential element of success;
  • Police instructors
  • Availability of specialized equipment;
  • Logistic units structured at the national level, following the logistical concept of the “Leading Nation”.


SPU logistics concepts


The concept of the “Leading Nation” is crucial to the planning and execution of operational logistics. Lead Nation is to be considered as a contributing Country that assumes the responsibility for procuring and providing the spectrum of logistic support for all or part of the multinational forces. Procedures for the reimbursement will be defined among the countries involved, or between the Lead Nation and the International Organization responsible for leading the Mission.

Furthermore, the concept of “Framework Nation” can also be applied. Framework Nation is a State or group of States with specific responsibilities for providing a defined spectrum of logistic support, or covering some CIS aspects.

Shortfalls, once identified and not resolved by the contributing nations through the tailoring process, will be solved by direct purchasing, especially if the rapid deployability of SPU is at stake.

As a general concept, operational logistics in phase of the mission should be kept flexible and related with the mission and tasks assigned by the mandate. To achieve its mission each SPU should have a common logistic structure.

The material and equipment must be compatible in order to ensure operational efficiency. One way to obtain compatibility and interoperability is through information exchange (among parties or countries involved) regarding police equipment and material (periodic meetings, during courses and joint exercise etc…). Achieving compatibility will make the structure and the dimension of the logistics organs less complex.

In this way, it is also necessary to find a balance between the logistic support that could be provided by the military component and the autonomous capacity that the police mission can achieve with self-sufficiency. This balance will change during the mission. It is envisioned that in the latest stages, the police mission may have autonomy on the ground to be able to carry out police operations without the presence of the military component.

In a complex situation with the military component deployed on the ground, continuous interaction between the police and military components must be a priority. In such cases the two components will have to work in co-operation, keeping in mind that missions assigned to them are different but complementary. This coordination requires the components to identify and put into operation certain mechanisms within the respective command and control structures, such as “liaison officers” or co-ordination cells, in their respective Headquarters.

The logistic support may differ and will be tailored according the logistic conditions in the Area of Operations. With particular reference to the different scenarios to which an SPU could be called to intervene, the following scenarios must be considered:


  1. Substitution scenarios;
  2. Strengthening scenarios;
  3. Humanitarian scenarios.


Before the field deployment, at the initial stage, a logistic planning process will help take advantage of resources available and identify logistic shortcomings so that a support system can be developed in the most cost-effective way, ensuring timely and effective support to the SPU deployed in mission area. As matter of strategy, logistics in any stage should be kept flexible and commensurate with the operational requirements imposed by the mandate and assigned tasks. An SPU must be able to overcome logistic challenges related to its self-sufficiency, which will be influenced by:

  • the tasks to be performed;
  • the extent of the area of operations;
  • the level of support eventually assured by the host nation and military forces present in area of operations (with which it is necessary to have agreed procedures for integration and/or interoperability on the basis of arrangements);
  • availability of local resources;
  • the possibility of receiving periodic supplies and specialised support from nations participating in the mission;
  • possible problems of the logistic system working properly during the initial phase.

Logistic activities undertaken in the mission area include:

  • supply
  • resupply
  • recovery and evacuation of equipment
  • transportation

United Nations (UN)


The United Nations employs Formed Police Units (FPUs). In missions where the mandate provides executive policing authority, these units have a primary mission of crowd and riot control. They also perform a variety of secondary functions, including providing point security for vital facilities, protection for UN officials, prisoner transport, and other specialized policing functions. FPUs also assist in the development of indigenous capacity to perform these specialized functions. In missions without executive authority, FPUs support and mentor the local police, especially anti-riot units. FPUs may also assist humanitarian agencies and other international entities recognized by the UN. Their missions could be summarized as:

“Cover” or protect the population,

“Control” lawlessness and major disturbances, and

“Clone” by developing local counterparts to perform the above functions.

Formed Police Units are one of several separate but coordinated components of UN international policing, which also include individual Civilian Police and Border Police. Each FPU is comprised of 115-120 personnel .


North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)


In NATO these forces are referred to as Multinational Specialized Units (MSUs). They are company-sized units formed of police with military training, capabilities, and status. MSUs perform specialized duties related to the restoration and maintenance of public order in peace and stability operations and immediately following armed conflict. Their functions include enforcing law and order, managing civil disturbances, gathering police intelligence, countering organized crime and terrorism, and training local police forces. They operate under the same rules of engagement as the NATO military force to which they are assigned.


European Union (EU)


The EU has created Integrated Police Units (IPUs) to provide a readily deployable specialized policing capability for situations that neither military combat forces nor individual police are wholly adequate at confronting.

The IPU is a police component that meets the following conditions according to the European Council conclusions of Feira and Nice: robust, rapidly deployable, flexible and interoperable forces, able to perform executive law enforcement tasks, preferably to be deployed in non-stabilized situations.

In a EU operation including military forces, subject to their national rules and legislation,

IPUs may be placed temporarily under the responsibility of the military
authority entrusted with the protection of the population.

This essentially makes them a police force with military status and organization. The IPU may conduct patrols, gather information and intelligence, enforce law and order, and liaise with local authorities.

The role of the IPU varies based on the concept of operations and whether the mission entails substituting for or strengthening the local police. When the local police have either ceased to function or have been one of the sources of internal conflict, international police, including IPUs, may need to substitute for them and perform law enforcement functions until a new local police force can be trained and begin to operate effectively. In a substitution role the IPU exercises executive authority in policing duties. In such highly destabilized environments the IPU can help to deter, mitigate and de-escalate resort to violence. In strengthening missions, international police and IPUs assist the establishment, reconstruction and reorganization of local police.




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