WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
25 Jun 2009 | Publication | News

Protect and Serve? The Status of Police Reform in Central America

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This report paints a portrait of the police in Central America today. It draws on interviews conducted by in-country experts with government officials, current and former police, representatives of international aid agencies, and civil society leaders in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Beginning with the reforms that emerged from the peace and political transition processes in the region, the report analyzes the current state of police reform processes, particularly in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, with a lesser focus on Nicaragua.

Each section examines a key aspect of the creation of professional police forces, including (a) police recruitment, selection, and training, (b) police leadership, (c) internal controls and disciplinary mechanisms, (d) external controls, (e) criminal investigation, and (f) community policing. Clearly, these are not the only areas of concern; important issues that remain outside the scope of this report include, among others, the organization of police forces, the deployment of preventive police, and command and control structures. Each thematic section evaluates the advances, setbacks, and failures in individual countries with respect to the issue in question. Overall, the report highlights the challenges that these countries must meet as they seek to build modern and democratic police forces and provide for the security of their citizens. It concludes with recommendations for actions by the countries of the region and for the role that the international community can and should play to support these efforts.