Sustaining Reform: Democratic Policing in Central America
Central America’s police reforms emerged following brutal civil wars during which military and police forces killed over 300,000 civilians. In this context, it was abundantly clear that the former military and police forces were neither operationally nor politically fit to police in peacetime and could not support post-war democratization. Together with the military, police participated directly in conflicts through political spying, illegal detention, torture, death squads, and ethnic cleansing. Police were also key guarantors of impunity, failing to investigate and hold military and paramilitary forces accountable for egregious human rights violations. This history made police reform a necessary condition for building lasting peace.