Friday, November 02, 2012

A Drug Enforcement Exchange Program in Switzerland

Kontrolle verboten!

Swiss narcotics officers have adopted an unusual technique for dealing with African drug-dealers in their cities: they are partnering on the job with their colleagues from Nigeria.

This serves a double purpose: it allows the Swiss police to benefit from their exchange officers’ familiarity with the ways of Nigerian dope-dealers, and it insulates them from charges of “racism” if an African is the one putting the cuffs on the dealer.

Many thanks to Hermes for translating this article from Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

The experience of Nigerian police agents: “This is a paradise for dealers”

Nigerian narcotics officers have been looking over the shoulders of their colleagues in Zurich for the past two weeks. The hosts profit more from this than the guests.

They pose with chests swelling with pride in front of the cameras of the press photographers. A passerby smugly remarks that “This is probably an integration project”. But this is not the case. “We profit more from them that they from us”, says Bruno Gentilesca, a member of the city police in Zürich, who goes to patrol together with Benneth Uche and Kabiru Ibrahim. Controls are relaxed.

Uche and Ibrahim work in Nigeria for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), an organization comprising 6000 members which fights drug trafficking. They are two out of nineteen agents who have been on practical training in recent months in some Swiss cities in which drug trafficking is mainly in the hands of Nigerians. The project of the national office for immigration arranges the exchange of experiences between colleagues of both lands. These men from Lagos have been accompanying the patrols and investigators of Zürich for three weeks.

It soon became evident how useful the Nigerian agents could be when dealing with suspects from their own land. Thanks to Uche and Ibrahim, the detained subjects acted in a cooperative way, Gentilesca said. In this way, the situations became more relaxed. And in addition to this, it has a de-escalating effect when black people are present among the agents. If not, then passers-by often tell the police agents off as racists when they check Africans.

And it also happens that Nigerian offenders hope to be protected by those with the beige uniform from those with the blue one. But if they are handcuffed, Uche and Ibrahim would be told off by them as traitors.

And there is something more: Uche, whose uniform consists of trousers and a short-sleeve shirt, stressed that it is incredibly cold in Zürich. This is a mere side issue, but it symbolizes rather well a recognition from this cooperative work: The conditions in Nigeria are so different from those in Switzerland, that the skills of one of the corps can hardly be passed on to the other. The Swiss understanding of the rule of law demands irrefutable proofs from the law enforcement authorities for the conviction. Till that point nobody is a culprit, but at worst a suspect who has the right to a lawyer.

“Frustrating work”

From the point of view of Uche, the Swiss laws are too soft; these would restrict the scope of action of the police and turn Switzerland into a “paradise for dealers”. The market is good, the prices high and the scope of action of the police is restricted. It must be frustrating to detain a dealer and meet him again in the street after a while.

Ibrahim explains that in his homeland the mere consumption of drugs can be punished with a sentence of 15 years in prison. Dealers are from time to time locked away for the rest of their life. This scares the “small fishes”, Uche says. And the prospects of getting a mild sentence have previously made offenders give tips on where to find those they were working for.