Honduras Police Massacre Points to Urgency of Reform

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A Honduran policeman shot dead five fellow officers, a killing which police commanders said would spur on a controversial reform process meant to purge the force of corrupt elements.

On November 12, a police officer in the city of La Ceiba on Honduras’ Caribbean coast killed five of his colleagues in the offices of the DNIC, the police’s criminal investigations unit. The group had reportedly had an argument before the officer, identified as Elias Enrique Mejia Suazo, drew his gun and began shooting at close range. He was arrested immediately afterwards.

Police are investigating the theory that the agents were arguing over how to distribute between them a cache of dollars seized as evidence, according to El Heraldo.

National police chief Juan Carlos Bonilla said the incident underscored the need to continue with reforms to the country’s police force. He said that the police would not hide anything during the investigation, and that, “We need to establish greater controls within the institution to avoid these unfortunate events.”

Security Minister Pompey Bonilla commented that the killing demonstrated the need for confidence tests to be performed on police officers.

InSight Crime

Juan Carlos Bonilla was appointed as police chief in May with a mandate to clean up the force. Despite allegations about his own past involvement in abuses, he has launched a forceful drive to move forward with reforms. He recently ordered the removal of 99 police officers, including 13 commissioners and 11 deputy commissioners.

Police in La Ceiba have been the focus of various corruption scandals since Bonilla took charge. Four officers accused of extortion were arrested there earlier this month, while the anti-kidnapping unit was dismissed and the commanders replaced in August over officers’ alleged kidnapping and murder of four young men.

Reform efforts have encountered significant opposition from within the police, with a group of officers launching a legal challenge, claiming that the tests violated their human rights. As IPS reported, some police commanders refuse to recognize the authority of Bonilla, as he was promoted above them despite ranking lower.

Eduardo Villanueva, head of the office for police evaluation, told IPS that “the reactions against the process merely indicate that we are on the right track.”

A version of this article was published on the Pan-American Post.

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