Following a high-profile drug money theft by police in Honduras, officials have announced that more than 700 police will be dismissed as part of an ongoing purge — a sign reform efforts are moving forward, although this is unlikely to provide a lasting solution to security force corruption.
Honduras’ Security Minister Arturo Corrales has announced that over 700 police will be removed for either corruption or general unsuitability, reported El Heraldo. Corrales stated that because of previously lax entrance requirements, individuals who were unfit for security work were accepted into the national police, but will be dismissed as part of the purge.
Since May 2012, 1,350 police have been removed from the force and at least 1,570 have left of their own accord, according to El Heraldo. The unit charged with evaluating the police (DIECP) administered 12,293 confidence tests between January 2012 and August 2014 to thousands of police officers and applicants. These consisted of polygraph tests, psychological and socioeconomic evaluations, toxicology exams, and reviews of financial records.
Corrales’ announcement comes on the heels of revelations that 22 police officers allegedly stole $1.3 million dollars seized during an operation targeting the Valle Valle drug trafficking family. Following reports of the theft, Corrales stated that those involved would be prosecuted and fired or suspended, depending on the circumstances of each individual.
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Although Corrales’ announcement is a promising sign that the country’s police reform program is making progress, in the past police purges have not proven a lasting solution to the country’s security woes.
Without taking the recently announced dismissals into account, the number of police purged through August 2014 already represented over 10 percent of the force. Unless the government can find more suitable candidates to replace these security personnel, the police will be seriously understaffed. In December 2012, a personnel shortage prompted by purges forced the national police to rely on law enforcement escorts, who normally protect top officials, to patrol the streets.
Furthermore, the process opens up the possibility for removals of police due to power plays and personal disputes, while failing to address aggravating factors in police corruption such as poor pay.
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The most recent police purges come as Honduras appears to be simultaneously stepping up efforts to combat drug trafficking. In May, Carlos “El Negro” Lobo became the first Honduran citizen to be extradited from Honduras to the United States in close to a century, and on December 9, Lobo was sentenced to 20 years in US prison for drug trafficking. The country has also gone after the assets of major drug traffickers and taken down the Valle Valle drug clan this year.