Guatemala Short on Guns for New Police Graduates

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Guatemala does not have enough guns to arm the latest crop of police graduates, pointing to the financial factors holding back the reform and expansion of the force.

Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla said that the authorities were trying to find guns to equip 1,503 new police agents who graduated on August 1. He suggested that they could share guns with off-duty police, and said that there would be enough guns once repairs had been made to some broken ones, reported Siglo 21.

Lopez also said that most of the new officers would be deployed in Guatemala City and in the province of Escuintla, in the south of the country, where crime has been on the rise.

On the same day, the authorities opened the new Officer Training School, which police reform commissioner Adela Camacho said was “the first step to professionalize the institution,” as Siglo 21 reported.

Colombia police helped the Guatemalan force to design the training school. The course will take a year, and the first group will be 80 existing police officers. Camacho also announced that universities around the country would begin offering a degree in police management.

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The opening of the new officers school is a success for President Otto Perez, who had promised to set up the facility early in his administration. A recent International Crisis Group report on police reform pointed out that the lack of such a school was one of the things holding back the professionalization of the force, as those promoted to officer often received little extra training. This means the police are short on qualified leadership. Crisis Group recommended the training of more supervising officers as a key part of combating corruption in the force.

However, despite the advance represented by the new school, the fact that a crop of new police agents do not have guns points to the financial constraints facing the authorities in carrying out police reform. Perez has promised to add 10,000 new officers to the police, but they will not be effective without the resources to train and equip them properly.

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