Investigations, Delays in Ecuador Police Reform

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More than 400 Ecuadorean police officers have been detained for suspected criminal activity, as attempts to reform chronically corrupt law enforcement continue across the region, with very mixed results.

As part of an initiative to combat corruption and cleanse the national police force, Ecuadorean authorities have investigated 400 officers who failed various tests in 2013, reported El Comercio.

Government officials also announced that, beginning this month, officers will undergo a wide range of evaluations, including toxicology exams, polygraph tests, psychological evaluations and analysis of their financial records. However, between 5,000 and 7,000 officers have still not submitted their paperwork, which is due by December, reported El Comercio.

The evaluations are the second phase of a planned initiative to purge the police force. The first phase led to the dismissal of 203 officers in June for crimes including robbery, extortion and drug consumption, reported Hoy.

InSight Crime Analysis

Police reform is on the rise across Latin America, where nearly all police forces deal with endemic corruption among their ranks. Many countries have introduced measures aimed at purging corrupt officers from the force, or have attempted to strengthen law enforcement by incorporating military personnel temporarily into law and order posts.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Police Reform

The initiatives have had mixed results. In Venezuela, significant positive steps have been made as part of a long-running process, such as increased salaries and the creation of a new police university. Police in Colombia identified corrupt colleagues through an undercover program earlier this year and thousands more are being investigated.

However, reform efforts in Honduras that include similar tactics to those underway in Ecuador have stalled, leading the government to bring in the military for support. And Mexico’s highly publicized reform efforts have hit significant roadblocks.

Meanwhile, the news that Mexican police officers involved in an Acapulco kidnapping ring had passed confidence tests illustrates the failings of investigative processes meant to identify corrupt officers. 

Analysts have also criticized moves to militarize law enforcement in Latin America for failing to produce effective results, as well as leading to increased human rights abuses.

Ecuador’s police force, with about 42,000 officers, has a bad reputation among citizens, exacerbated by revolts, human rights abuses and widespread corruption. The government has introduced anti-corruption and reform initiatives, including offering citizenship to immigrants who report police corruption and expanding the military’s role in law enforcement

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