(CNN Spanish) – The president of Colombia, Iván Duque, announced this Sunday a reform to the country’s Police to give it “a change in the institutional image and the modernization of the entity.”
The announcement is made amid strong criticism of the Police after more than a month national strike in which cases of excessive use of force by the police have been reported, but that the institution, the Ministry of Defense, and the President Duque himself have denied.
The police reform was also announced before the start of a working visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to the country to review complaints of human rights violations in the framework of the anti-government demonstrations that began on April 28. This Monday the IACHR delegation arrived in Bogotá and were received by Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez. The delegation will be visiting several cities in the country observing the human rights situation in the framework of the protests that began on April 28. The IACHR’s visit until June 10th.
«I have given clear instructions to the minister [Diego] Molano to modernize the organic structure of the Ministry of Defense at zero cost where we will give citizen security, public security an unquestionable emphasis and within that emphasis work with our National Police, where that closeness to the citizen and the structure is. from citizen scrutiny to the work itself “, Duque said this Sunday at the ‘General Francisco de Paula Santander’ Police Cadet School.
Duque said that Defense Minister Diego Molano will present the bill to Congress on July 20, when a new period of legislative sessions begins.
The points of the reform
One of the main reforms will be the organic transformation of the Ministry of Defense, where the Vice Ministry of Defense Policy and Citizen Security will be created, the implementation of a regulation to “limit the commercialization, carrying and use of traumatic weapons” and, the change of uniforms that will go from green to blue, as announced by the president.
According to Duque, the transformation will be at “zero cost.”
A new disciplinary statute – The General Inspection will be restructured, to supervise and control the police service, as well as a new system for receiving, processing and monitoring complaints and reports, according to the Presidency.
A new identity – Police uniforms, which are currently green, will change to blue, Duque announced. This is part of a new identity and image of the Police to allow people “to have complete information on who is in the services on the streets.” “Beyond the purely operational issues, it makes more visible the name of the police officer, his distinction and badge, his rank,” said Duque.
Update of the Discipline Statute – According to Duque, this measure will update a document that was approved 15 years ago and will make it possible to strengthen “the investigation of traceability in all police conduct.”
Professionalize the Police – It will be proposed to create the High Level Standards Center which, according to Duque, will have input from international police centers, and train law enforcement agencies in “procedures, service psychology, operational management, traceability and scrutiny.”
According to the president, “these measures that we announce today, which have been built for a long time, are one more step and one more step in the history of this institution.”
“Today, with these determinations, a new historical milestone is also marked, so that our Police, strong, vigorous, transparent, close, loyal, continue to sow in every home in Colombia a sense of tranquility,” said Duque.
“A police reform is urgent”
The director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco, said this Sunday on CNN en Español’s Conecta2 program that police reform is urgent in Colombia.
“We believe that we must start with a police reform and it is something urgent,” Vivanco said on CNN en Español. “Starting with transferring the Police from the Ministry of Defense. Colombia is the only Latin American country, the only one, where the police belong to the Ministry of Defense and in part that is one of the reasons why we can see this type of police performance.
According to Vivanco, during the month long protests that the country has passed through, the reaction of the government and specifically of President Iván Duque has been “slow” to acknowledge the human rights violations “by the security forces.
“Initially the emphasis was more on what is called vandalism, looting and blockades. Little by little the president himself has admitted that there are human rights violations, but later, the president notes, that these violations are isolated events that do not justify a reform of the police, “Vivanco added.
Just a few days ago, President Duque came out in defense of the Police and its procedures and denied that the violence was systematic, after complaints by human rights defenders of violence by the security forces.
Duque acknowledged last Tuesday in a virtual conversation about the Amazon that there have been cases of police abuse.
“Of course there have been cases of abuse of authority, but they are investigated, sanctioned and do not show a systematic trend,” Duque said at that event.
This Sunday when the reform was announced to the Police Duque said that one of the points of the reform is the creation of a Human Rights Directorate within the Police “for the prevention, protection and respect for Human Rights.”
House representative María José Pizarro, from the opposition Decentes coalition, warned that this reform announcement must be reviewed “carefully”, since it is done just when the visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights arrives.
“These announcements must be carefully reviewed, they cannot remain only as headlines or a strategy for visiting the #CIDH, we hope they will be the door for a comprehensive reform” tweeted Pizarro.
Pizarro shared on his social networks four bills that are already in Congress, among which it regulates the actions of the police and the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (Esmad) in protests, prohibits the use of some weapons already used by these forces and implements the use of body cameras for police officers.
Senator Antonio Sanguino, of the also opposition Green Party, which has filed several bills to reform the Police, welcomed the news of the police reform, although he said that it will be necessary to debate the government’s proposal.
“Although 4 projects to reform the Police of our authorship are already settled in the Senate, the decision of President Ivan Duque to move towards an urgent reform of the public force is good news. We are ready for the debate! ”He wrote on Twitter.
Although they are already based in @SenadoGovCo 4 reform projects a @PoliceColombia of our authorship, the decision of the President @IvanDuque to move towards an urgent reform of the public force is good news. We are ready for the debate! https://t.co/wEiBYtxlZY
– Antonio Sanguino Senator (@AntonioSanguino) June 7, 2021