1683983432 The promise to remove the police from the Department of

The promise to remove the police from the Department of Defense is blocked by the question of where to put them

The promise to remove the police from the Department of

Gustavo Petro’s government appears to have backtracked on its pledge to remove the Colombian National Police from the Defense Ministry’s sphere of influence, despite this being one of the most specific recommendations of the Truth Commission, which has proposed fully implementing it. There is no wish to, qualified General William Salamanca, recently sworn in as Director of Police. “This decision will be analyzed with absolute responsibility,” he told Blu Radio on Thursday. Faced with shaken public trust in the police, Defense Secretary Iván Velásquez himself endorsed that campaign pledge, which was part of the broader debate about fundamental security force reform.

“When there is distrust between the people and the public forces, democracy ends and we don’t even dream of peace,” Petro said Tuesday at the handover of command to the new director, a ceremony at which he joined a public troop ” absolutely” introduced “We will make the safety of urban citizens a national priority and to this end we announce that all surveillance police officers will undergo thorough retraining, with an emphasis on human rights, international humanitarian law and dealing with social protests,” said Gen. Salamanca, who returned to the service to succeed the sacked Henry Sanabria, eventually crushed by his homophobic and ultra-religious remarks at the helm of a debt-ridden institution to modernize.

However, there were no major references to the final report of the truth commission, whose recommendations were again on the table. Although the article of the development plan that the government wanted to make mandatory failed through the legislative process, these recommendations stand. One of the commission’s most uncomfortable conclusions from the peace deal with the extinct FARC guerrillas is that the security doctrine – and the concept of the enemy within – has intensified the armed conflict. And that is why he argues that there is a need for major reform of public authority. Among its recommendations, it calls for “separating the National Police from the Ministry of Defense and placing them under another or new ministry as a necessary but insufficient measure to advance the strengthening of their civilian character and governance.” Security issues. “Citizen, Country and City”.

In his first interview as minister-elect before the presidential inauguration on August 7, Iván Velásquez assured that it was already a “decision” as Colombia “is one of the very few countries in the world where the police are represented in the defense ministry.” . “. However, no concrete steps were taken in this direction. The first nine months of the government were marked by controversy surrounding General Sanabria, the devout police chief who angered feminist groups, LGBTIQ, human rights organizations and generally defenders of the secular state unlawful statements which ultimately cost him his job. These scandals have reminded us that the police motto, “God and Country”, is modeled on the ideology of the Spanish far right, is contrary to constitutional provisions and is an “anachronism of our institutions”, as the sociologist recalls. Olga González.

The fact that the police are part of the defense sector has prevented a clear separation between their functions and the role of the armed forces, which have very different tasks to perform, said Juan Pappier, acting deputy director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch. “The removal of the police from the Ministry of Defense is a wise and valuable decision, but not enough, it cannot be the end of the comprehensive police reform that Colombia needs,” he stresses. “Further measures need to be taken, such as reforming the police disciplinary system, reviewing protocols on the use of force and the jurisdiction of military criminal justice,” he said. “It would be a serious mistake if the years of government passed and no significant progress was made on this issue,” he adds.

The eventual move also opens up discussion about which ministry might host it. Minister Velásquez originally envisioned the police in a new Ministry for Peace, Coexistence and Security, an idea that was scrapped for the time being. “I think the best option is to turn it over to the Justice Department, which needs reform as it’s a relatively smaller department. “The task of public authority could be coordinated with criminal policy,” Pappier estimates. Although in several Latin American countries the police are internally located, in Colombia it is the political branch that is responsible for relations with Congress, which would raise new questions. The transfer to the judiciary makes sense, agrees Jerónimo Castillo, an expert on security and crime policy at the Ideas for Peace Foundation (FIP), although he warns that it is a complex process: “It requires citizen participation, it shouldn’t Be discussion.” Behind closed doors, it must be open, facing the public and striving for legitimacy.”


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Police are on the back burner amid wave of government reforms. “We started with an in-depth study of how to shape this change for the benefit of society, strengthen policing and security for citizens, and not harm the armed forces. “We want to make this distinction very well, and that doesn’t happen overnight,” Justice Minister Néstor Osuna told the newspaper in February.

The police have been at the center of controversy for several years after numerous abuses were documented during the protests during the Iván Duque period (2018-2022). The complaints have been common during containment measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, but this uneasiness dates back to the first wave of anti-Duque demonstrations in late 2019. At that time, a projectile from the Mobile Riot Squad being interviewed, The Esmad killed high school student Dilan Cruz during a peaceful protest in downtown Bogotá.

Some time later, in September 2020, the killing in police custody of law student Javier Ordóñez, who was tortured by two patrol officers who kept firing Tasers at him despite his pleas, sparked public outrage. The crime, committed by a Rapid Response Team (CAI), sparked two chaotic nights of unrest in Bogotá, which in turn led to new and serious abuses that killed a total of 13 people. Mayor Claudia López asked Duque to lead a deep-seated police reform process. The government responded with a united defense of public violence and the Duke himself photographed himself in a police jacket to show his support.

These precedents preceded the social outburst of 2021, as reports of human rights abuses multiplied, including the indiscriminate and lethal use of weapons, arbitrary arrests and beatings. This civic fatigue paved the way to the presidency of Petro, a staunch critic of the suppression of the protests. In the latest February study by Invamer, 50% of respondents had a negative image of the police, compared to 42% with a positive image.

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