Colombian National Police commanders lead the fight against organized crime

By Dialogo
January 08, 2014

The Colombian National Police recently appointed 27 new regional commanders as part of a broad strategy to fight organized crime and improve public safety.
The new appointments of police commanders, who are at the rank of colonel, were made in 18 regional departments. The appointments were made between Nov. 11 2013 and Dec. 20 2013.
The colonels replaced commanders who are being trained to become generals, according to published reports. Authorities are taking steps to strengthen security forces before the next presidential election, which will take place in May 2014.
The new colonels are assuming the command of police stations in these departments: Amazonas, Arauca, Cauca, Cesar, Córdoba, Choco, Guainía, Guajira, Guaviare, Huila, Magdalena Medio, Meta, Nariño, Providencia, San Andrés, Santander, Sucre, Urabá, Vaupés, and Vichada, in addition to the cities of Cúcuta, Ibagué, Pasto, Pereira, Villavicencio, and the Buenaventura district.

Improving public safety

The changes will help the National Police improve public safety throughout the country, authorities said. The new commanders are responsible for squelching regional conflicts, many of which involve violence by street gangs and transnational organized crime groups.
Regional commanders will continue to prioritize the battle against international drug traffickers and transnational criminal organizations, officials said. The appointments of the regional commanders “comply with the institutional dynamics that seek to strengthen the direction of the units within the framework of security and defense policy,” National Police Director Rodolfo Palomino López, said on November 10, 2013, when he publicly announced the appointments of the new police commanders.
The new commanders are expected to help “strengthen security processes for communities with investigative and intelligence capabilities when serving the public, as well as strengthen the process of transparency,” Palomino López said.

Building on a strong foundation

The new police commander in Santander, Colonel Jesús Edison Paredes Barreto, said he plans on building on the successes of his predecessor. Fighting organized crime and improving public safety is a big challenge, the commander said. “To achieve this we count on excellent police officers,” Paredes Barreto said.
Another commander who was transferred, Col. Ricardo Augusto Alarcón Campos, is looking forward to serving in Pereira. He was transferred from the department of Cauca. The new assignment is a reward for his 26 years of service as a police officer, Alarcón Campos said.
“This is going to be a different job where the aim is to tackle public security issues. I accept it as a fair reward,” Alarcón Campos said on Nov. 27, 2013, during the public ceremony for the transfers.

Nearing an accord with the FARC

Colombian officials and representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are engaged in peace talks in Havana.
The Colombian government is likely to reach a peace accord soon with the FARC), even though the two sides are continuing to skirmish on the battlefield, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón said recently.
The vast majority of Colombians have confidence in the short-term and long-term security of the country, Pinzón said.
“Around 90 percent of Colombians, when they talk about security problems, they are not talking any more about the country falling to an illegal organization or to a terrorist organization,” Pinzón said, referring to the FARC. “After technically defeating those enemies of the Colombian people, what we’re telling them is, maybe it’s time for you to get out of this situation. We will continue to pressure them every day, everywhere, so they understand that they have only one exit with dignity: to agree for an option of peace and getting into the political system which in the end is part of what our democracy conceives.”

Preparing for peace

If the government reaches a peace accord with the FARC, the National Police and other security forces will have to make adjustments, said Jairo Delgado, director of the Institute of Political Science Hernán Echavarría. Delgado is a retired police general.
“A public security model that aims to consider the post-conflict situation as a strategic priority, if peace agreements are achieved with the guerrillas,” Delgado said. “In this regard, it is understood that public security will have a significant demand from the regional level as seen in criminal behavior trends. This is why security plans like Corazón Verde (‘Green Heart’) and city quadrant plans are given priority.”
Corazón Verde is a broad strategic plan for combatting terrorism, drug trafficking, micro-extortion, micro-drug trafficking, mobile phone theft, and other crimes. A separate initiative, the National Plan for Community Policing in Quadrants (PNVCC) has helped police create stronger ties with community members in order to become familiar with their security concerns.
The newly assigned police commanders are expected to assess the crime situation in their regions and develop and follow through on strategies to improve public safety, Delgado said. The commanders are expected to respond to the needs and concerns of the communities they are assigned to, Delgado said.
Police commanders must remain flexible enough to respond quickly to different types of criminal activity, from street-level drug trafficking to weapons smuggling to extortion, Delgado said.

Fighting drug violence

Thanks largely to the efforts of police and the military, security in Colombia has improved in recent years. Kidnappings, homicides, and attacks on security forces have declined steadily, according to government statistics.
However, there are some regions were homicides have increased, because of drug trafficking activity. Such violence has increased in cities of Cali, Pasto, Buenaventura, and Barrancabermeja. There have also been increases in homicides in the Valle, Cauca, and Nariño regions, where drug trafficking organizations fight each other and security forces.
From January to November 2013, there were 6,713 homicides in 27 cities with over 200,000 inhabitants. This is a slight improvement from the same period of time in 2012, when authorities reported 6,865 homicides in those cities, according to the annual report of the Democracy and Security Center at Sergio Arboleda University.
Attacks on security forces declined from 2012 during the first 11 months of 2012 to 134 during the same time period in 2013, according to the report. The FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) are responsible for most of the attacks against security forces.
“The fight against the FARC, drug trafficking, and other forms of crime, must be strengthened, taking into account that a lot of institutional experience has been accumulated on the phenomena, but requires local police commanders to identify objectively the impact each phenomenon has in their region,” Delgado said.

The National Police force is held in high regard

Colombians hold the National Police in high regard and respect the professionalism of the institution, according to a recent survey, “Citizen Perception of Police Service,” by the polling firm Invamer Gallup.
Colombians gave the National Police a positive rating of 3.51 points, out of a possible perfect score of 5, the survey found. This is the highest ranking the National Police have ever received in a survey.
National Police agents have made important arrests and seizures of weapons and explosives in recent weeks.
For example, on Dec. 26, 2013, a group of National Police agents from the Unified Action Group (GAULA) in San José de Cúcuta arrested Renzo Aykardo Calzado Ortega, 26, an alleged leader of Los Rastrojos who is known as “Renzo.” He is suspected of extorting large sums of money from merchants, and of engaging in money laundering for the gang. The arrest capped a six-month investigation.
On the same day police captured Renzo, another group of police agents seized 15,000 doses of heroin in Cali. The agents found the drugs hidden between clay pots inside a vehicle on the Pan-American Highway. Drug traffickers were transporting the heroin from the municipality of Toribio to the city of Pereira, authorities said.
Good article. They should implement these security models in all countries of Latin America.