BEIRUT: The national police are seeking to boost public trust in law enforcement with the launch of a new pilot project in Ras Beirut that will see personnel peddling bikes along the corniche, holding regular meetings with local business owners and working closely with civil society groups.
“Traditionally, civilians were viewed as potential opponents, whereas the new approach favors interaction with civilians as partners and collaborators with the ISF,” ISF Inspector-General Pierre Nassar said in a recorded message shown at the launch of the pilot program at the American University of Beirut Thursday.
The Policing Pilot Project was funded by the American and British embassies with the goal of engaging the local community in policing efforts and improving the image of the Internal Security Forces.
ISF members stationed at the newly refurbished Ras Beirut station have received special training in modern policing techniques, proper questioning methods and community outreach. The new police unit is called the Ras Beirut Section instead of Hobeish because of the public’s distrust of the former institution, one official said.
If the Ras Beirut project is successful, the community-policing model may be extended on a national scale.
“Based on the results, we will proceed to disseminate this culture across all ISF stations in Lebanon,” Nassar said.
The inauguration of the PPP comes as residents are reporting an increasing number of crimes in the Hamra area.
“I would say that in the last six months, we have noticed that there are more incidents,” American University of Beirut President Peter Dorman said.
“I think this is a result of the influx of refugees from Syria.”
“Our students have been accosted by people holding guns,” he said, emphasizing that no incidents had occurred on campus.
“We’re encouraging our students to walk in groups, especially to the women’s dorms.”
The American deputy chief of mission to Lebanon, Richard Mills Jr., said the relatively high number of Westerners in the Ras Beirut area was not related to the embassy’s support of the project.
“The ISF actually proposed the location,” Mills explained.
The police wanted, as a test, to pick a diverse community that included various nationalities, religions and political groups, as well as commercial, residential and institutional elements as a microcosm of the country.
The U.S. Embassy has been training members of the ISF in community policing for the past 18 months, he added.
The community-based approach to police work, Mills said, has “worked really well in the United States, has worked really well in the United Kingdom, and we think it could work really well here if the ISF were in touch with the community it serves.”