The Guatemalan government is installing cameras in police patrol cars to monitor its own officers, as part of the effort to tackle corruption and criminal links within the force.
The $45 million, four-year contract with Geoinformatica will see two cameras installed in 1,300 National Police (PNC) patrol cars. One will be focused inside the car, while the other will look towards the front of the vehicle.
The cameras will transmit images in real time that will be monitored at a control center, also managed by Geoinformatica, while the PNC will contract its own supervision service to monitor the functioning of the system, reported elPeriodico.
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Guatemala has a history of corruption within its police force, an issue which President Otto Perez has declared to be a priority of his administration. The camera installation is the latest step in a program of police reform which, until now, has relied on confidence testing to identify corrupt officers, as Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez pointed out. The reform process saw 194 officers sacked for criminal activity during 2012, and 22 more in the first 50 days of this year. Cameras are not the only technology being considered — in October, Lopez announced that police badges would be fitted with microchips to track officers’ movements.
The police force is also poorly trained, understaffed and underfunded, and has a record of abuse as well as corruption, as set out in an International Crisis Group study last year. Perez’s stated determination to reform the police is a positive sign, but, as noted by Crisis Group, there is a lack of government funding and political backing for the project. Meanwhile, as violence fuelled by organized crime remains high, Guatemala is increasingly turning to the military for domestic security. Perez, a former general, has created four new military brigades to fight organized crime since assuming the presidency in January 2012.