Can Honduras Handle Onslaught of Police Corruption Cases?

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Honduras’ police reform commission has asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate over 500 officers for their alleged involvement in a range of crimes, but it’s unlikely the country’s notoriously weak judicial system is equipped or willing to handle such a huge and controversial caseload. 

During a September 20 press conference, Honduras’ Special Commission for the Purging and Reform of the National Police said that three generals were among the over 500 officers that they have asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate, reported EFE.

The commission said it has evaluated 1,515 National Police officers since it was formed in early April after reports surfaced that top level police officials were involved in the 2009 assassination of the country’s anti-drug czar and the murder of his deputy two years later. Over 620 of the officers evaluated so far have been fired, 14 have been suspended, 36 left voluntarily and 27 are still under investigation, the commission said. Slightly more than half — 810 — of the 1,515 officers have been reintegrated into the police force.

Following the conference, Security Minister Julián Pacheco announced that 1,000 new National Police officers will be sworn in at the end of this year, in addition to the 1,000 added in December 2015, reported AFP. President Juan Orlando Hernández says he wants to more than double the number of police officers in the country from 12,000 to 26,000.

InSight Crime Analysis

The police reform commission has been highly effective so far at investigating and dismissing corrupt officers, marking a change from the previous lackluster attempts to purge the national police. It is unlikely, however, that this momentum will translate into robust criminal investigations by the Attorney General’s Office, as the commission is requesting.

For one thing, the Attorney General’s Office has a poor track record in following up on formal complaints lodged against police officers. The prosecutor’s office has failed to investigate over 3,000 officers that have been the subject of complaints over the past 10 years, according to Omar Rivera, a member of the police reform commission. 

“With such an enormous backlog… it is evident that a shadow of impunity hangs over the police,” Rivera said recently. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Police Reform

Meanwhile, Honduras’ weak and overburdened judicial system has enabled criminals to enjoy just as much impunity as the police. A December 2014 study by the Alliance for Peace and Justice (Alianza por la Paz y la Justicia – APJ) found that only 1 percent of all homicides in the country’s three biggest cities lead to convictions. Honduras is one of the most violent countries in Latin America, and for several years was considered the world’s murder capital. 

Within this context, it is difficult to envision the Attorney General’s Office successfully prosecuting even a small number of the over 500 police officers that the reform commission alleges are guilty of criminal activity.

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