Crime Scene: Do not cross!

Kabul, March 2013. "What do you see, where would you start?”  Lieutenant Colonel Islam asks while pointing at the bloody body slumped over a chair and several cigarette butts on the floor.  Students trip over each other, trying to get a view of the victim and the crime scene. Red tape makes sure the students can’t step on the evidence: several hairs and almost eight bullet shells. Investigator, 2ndLieutenant Faridullah, knows already what to do: “The body or the evidence can’t be touched with your hands”, he says.

The need to invest in investigative capabilities is very clear. All over Afghanistan there is a lack of investigative equipment and professional investigators.  Interpol warned the world yet again of the immense risk Afghanistan posed when hundreds of dangerous prisoners escaped in April 2011.

“Afghanistan must be able to collect, store, access and exchange photographs, fingerprints and DNA of known criminals and nationally and internationally, the global safety is at risk”, Interpol secretary General Ronald K. Noble demanded.  Not only is the lack of equipment and knowledge a challenge, also the lack of crime investigators is worrisome. Of 150.000 police officers only 5.000 are dedicated crime investigators.  This is a far cry of what is needed as the almost 30 million Afghans suffer from a rising amount of various crimes. Last year between 11.000 and 14.000 crimes were reported -  a figure that grossly underestimates the crime rate as the reporting rate is low and the database is filled by hand at the Ministry of the Interior (MoI).

They need the necessary equipment to gather the evidence.  The experienced EUPOL trainer is impressed with the eagerness and dedication of his students. “Some even have to loan money to pay for their trip to the CMC in Kabul, or in some cases had to go back early to prevent that someone else will have their job.” George Duff, EUPOL Chief of the Crime Management College is pleased with the high demand of the Core Investigative Programme: “We are continually seeking to improve the course content with our Afghan colleagues and build on the positive feedback we receive from our students.”

One of the students is Lieutenant Faridullah, who works at the MoI as a detective for Border Investigations. He appreciates “the practical approach of the teachings at the CMC” and doesn’t mind the cold classroom.  All the students wear as many clothes as their uniform allows, while they listen to their trainer, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Islam. 

He also has no worries about the cold, or pays any attention to the fact that the classroom is quite small and rather dark. He challenges his students to come up with their own suggestions on how to handle a crime scene. The students eagerly respond. 

Lt Colonel Islam is one of the four Afghan trainers who recently graduated from the Train-the Trainer course. He is experienced in crime investigation management, having been a Chief of Investigative Department in several provinces. “I like to use and share my experience to communicate with people”, Colonel Mohammed Islam explains why he changed from CID to the teaching profession nine years ago. 

His experience is well in demand. Lieutenant  Faridullah asks him on advice on a murder-case he is currently handling in Paktika Province. “How do you know that it is a murder and not something else that caused the death of this young man?”, Lt Colonel Islam asks promptly. Faridullah also doubts if that his case is a murder case although murder is the most reported crime in Afghanistan, as all the doors and windows were locked and no traces of a burglary had been found. The advice - after a group discussion - is to investigate further and ask relatives and people in the neighbourhood about possible motives.  

A large part of this “Essentials skill course”,  Faridullah is attending is about ethics, the Police Code of Conduct. A difficult subject as it questions cultural beliefs and traditions. The classroom full of CID-ers, heats up a bit when the interview techniques are addressed.  The ethical principles of interviewing are an essential part of the course because in Afghanistan cases are mostly statement based instead of evidence based.  “Can a police investigator use force in order to get answers from suspects?” The students doubt the answer and reluctantly nod. But Lt Colonel Mohammed Islam is strict: “No force is allowed!  You know there are other methods to get the right answers.”

One of the students from Herat is not convinced: “How will I know for sure that the suspect gives me all the information he has, without beating him?” Lt Colonel Islam is adamant and explains that using force doesn’t guarantee a truthful answer.  A suspect will eventually say anything to stop the violence.

EUPOL officer Patrik Akerlund finds that his students acknowledge the problems involved in using confessions to build a case. “There are no short cuts when investigating”, he emphasizes.  For him investigating is ABC: “Assume Nothing, Believe Nothing, Challenge everything.   It involves also challenging superiors and that is not that easy for many police officers.  “The Afghan National Police is quite hierarchical, so a CID-chief will not tell the provincial chief not to step on the crime scene”, Patrik observes with a slight smile.

Next to the class of Colonel Islam, the Justice Coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Mohammad Akbar Arghandewal observes a class of prosecutors and judges participating in the Police-Prosecutor-Cooperation course.  It is the first group of all Family Response Units (FRU) in Afghanistan who will attend this course (see also page...).  He wants to make sure that a SOP (standard operating procedure) is implemented for the cooperation between police and prosecutors. “Only with a good SOP in place, the training will have an effect in the field”, the Justice Coordinator emphasizes. All members of the FRU units will have finished their training in three months time.

Just in time to make room for another special group that will participate in the Core Investigator Programme:  the investigators of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).  Hussain Moin, the coordinator of the 85 AIHRC investigators, identified that they - although well trained in Human Rights - lacked knowledge of Crime Investigative Methods.  His researchers have dangerous jobs and are regularly intimidated and threatened – even by the Afghan police- but he sees progress. “We can now talk publicly about incidents of rape and even have campaigns against it, that would have been impossible a few years ago”, says Hussain Moin. He hopes that the joint training courses with the police will help lower the barriers between ANP and the AIHRC investigators. “It is important that we can prove we handle cases in the right way - only then we can really help the victims of the crimes. “That is the purpose of everything that we do”, the AIHRC coordinator says passionately. The Crime Management College can boast on its successes and gets acknowledgement from different sides but suffers from a lack of space at the current location.  That is why a new crime management college is underway, with all kinds training rooms.

It will be built by the end of the year by the IOM while EUPOL specifies the needs.  EUPOL Head of Training Component Chief Superintendant  Tom Stabler is proud of the new developments and the acknowledgement of the courses at the Crime Management College: ”We are putting in place the building blocks for the future with an Afghan led Crime Management College and providing training in curriculum development and course design.” The new college will hopefully give another impulse to the crime investigative capabilities of the ANP. 

Background:

New Crime Management College

  • The  EU delegation and the Ministry of the Interior decided to fund the new Crime Management College with one million Euro by the end of 2013.    
  • · Six classrooms

· A dedicated Computer Room with 21 desktop computers

· A dedicated crime scene room

· Outside crime scene area for practical exercises

· Accommodation for 40 male students, 12 female students and facilities for children