Ore. Police Chief Takes His Expertise to Kosovo
ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) -- Astoria, Oregon Police Chief Rob Deu Pree has spent much of his professional life helping police agencies incorporate community policing into how they handle law enforcement.
For nine weeks recently, he brought that expertise to a nation that witnessed one of the most vicious and bloody civil wars in modern history.
Deu Pree was in Kosovo from Sept. 15 to Nov. 17 teaching the country's police, residents and local leaders to work together.
Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations and NATO-led peacekeepers since June 1999, following an alliance bombing campaign that stopped the crackdown of Serb forces on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.
Deu Pree said he went to Kosovo after Steve Bennett, the U.N.-appointed head of the Kosovo police academy, asked him to travel to the country to help create a model program of community policing to be used throughout Kosovo.
Bennett and Deu Pree had worked together at the Oregon Police Academy in Monmouth, specializing in community policing. Community policing is about the use of relationships between police, average citizens and local government leaders to combat crime and improve the quality of life and public safety.
That type of thinking was pretty much unheard of in Kosovo, Deu Pree said, adding that he's pretty confident the concept made a strong foothold in the country.
"We left saying we did a lot of good here," he said.
Deu Pree joined a few other police chiefs and private consultants from the United States to try to establish community policing in four municipal areas.
Each municipality included a fairly large city and the surrounding rural area. The first goal of the team was to build relationships needed for community policing.
Deu Pree said Kosovo has a national police, supervised by an international police force. He said the Kosovar police officers had never thought to ask their international supervisors to see if they could attend the community meetings being held in the towns they patrolled.
Getting the police to the table was the first and most basic element in getting the community police model up and going.
"It's tough to have community policing without the police," Deu Pree said.
There wasn't any problem in getting the police to attend once they asked, he said, and soon after they held public meetings in which the police, local residents and government officials discussed key problems affecting their cities.
After those meetings, each group used its own connections and resources to help find solutions.
Deu Pree said in a country with a roughly 70 percent unemployment rate, sporadic power service and unsanitary water, it was impressive to see people tackle issues such as home burglaries and drug abuse.
Working in the cities of Vushtrri, Novoberde, Gjokova and Fushkosova, Deu Pree said "the effects were really marvelous."
One community group was able to supply 20 families with food and clothing, then secure 20,000 Euros (about $24,000) from the International Red Cross to provide more food and clothing.
Deu Pree said that was illustrative of efforts by many other groups in Kosovo. After years of strict rule and civil strife, they learned to take care of many of their own problems.
"They did not realize they had the power to fix these problems," he said.
"All they had to do was ask and they had never done that before."
Other projects included collecting the resources to build a public park, initiating a community garbage pick-up service and creating a system to monitor for drug use in local schools.
"These folks overcame issues we did not think they could overcome," Deu Pree said.
He said the model for community policing will be used throughout Kosovo.
Deu Pree said he lived in the second floor of a house and shared one bathroom with two other men and two women who made up the community police team. He said the water and power would shut off almost routinely, interrupting daily tasks like showering.
Despite the challenges, Deu Pree said he found the region's history, which goes back thousands of years, to be fascinating. He said he was able to handle relics from a church built in the year 600 and bought wine from a monastery established in the 1300s.
And he said after visiting Kosovo, anyone would be a fool to believe that Americans are hated universally abroad. A four-story-tall painting of Bill Clinton adorns a building in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, in honor of his decision to send in U.S. troops to help.
People took every opportunity to let Deu Pree and the other Americans know how much they appreciated America's intervention in the war.
"It was extraordinarily heartwarming," he said. "When we walked down the street older men would put their hands on their heart and say: 'Thank you Americans, we can never repay you."'
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