Honduran police officers

Almost 100 officers are set to be purged from the Honduran police force according to reports, though the lengthy process involved in their removal and the slow pace of efforts to tackle corruption so far raise questions about how sincerely the government is addressing the issue.

El Heraldo reported that it had been given access to a list, dated October 22, of 99 officers set to be dismissed from the force, among them 13 commissioners and 11 deputy commissioners.

The process will involve the 99 being relieved of their positions for one year, during which the state will pay their salary as normal. Once the year is up, they can be officially removed from the police force.

Two former police chiefs -- Ricardo Ramirez del Cid and Jose Luis Muñoz Licona -- are also set to be fired upon suggestion of the Security Ministry, reported La Prensa. Though they have already been removed from their positions, the state’s failure to re-assign them means they will also go through the year-long process.

Ramirez replaced Muñoz last October when the latter was removed from his position following the murder of two university students by alleged corrupt officers. Ramirez then lost his job in May when it emerged an ex-policeman was linked to the murder of a journalist.

According to La Prensa, some of the 99 on the list have actually passed confidence tests currently being carried out by DIECP, the investigative body charged with assessing police officials. These tests involve psychological assessments, toxicology tests and a polygraph, and began in late June.  There are also others on the list that have failed the test but were not removed with immediate effect.

InSight Crime Analysis

Honduras arguably has the most notorious police force in the region in terms of corruption and its infiltration by criminal elements.  One congressman claimed last year that up to 40 percent of police had ties to organized crime while a Miami Herald report from January found that police were actively participating in, and sometimes directing, criminal operations for imprisoned gang members.

The Honduran government has taken steps to tackle the problem though progress has been slow to date. The independent Commission on Public Security Reform (CRSP) began work on June 1 with one of its primary goals being reform of the police. According to EFE, however, this has not received the funds it has been promised so far.

The role of DIECP is a welcome initiative to weed out corrupt elements, though this too appears to be moving slowly. The Honduran police force is comprised of over 14,000 officers, presenting DIECP with an enormous task. On top of this, of the tests carried out to date, there have been many instances of officers simply not showing up for their assessment.

The announcement that 99 members are going to be removed from the force suggests the government is combating the issue in earnest to a degree. However, it is puzzling that the removal process is so lengthy if these officers have been found unfit, and that it should still incur a cost on the state for a year. What’s more, the fact that some of the officers have not been submitted to the test points to a possible failure by the government to effectively coordinate operations across institutions when tackling police corruption.

Though Honduras may be the worst in the region for police corruption, it is certainly not alone when it comes to narco-infiltration of the force. In Guatemala, for example, the government announced this week that it would equip police with microchips to track their movements, an initiative apparently driven by the endemic levels of corruption within the force. Also within the last week, one Mexican military commander declared that more than 90 percent of the police in Cancun and Playa del Carmen had ties to organized crime, while the chief of police in Argentina’s Santa Fe province was forced to resign due to an investigation into his alleged links with drug traffickers.

Investigations

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